The impact of overfishing on the economy, ecosystem and social life

Overfishing is when people reduce a population by catching too much. The threat goes beyond damage to the ecosystem. It can result in a food crisis and loss of employment for some of around 60 million people who work directly and indirectly in the fishing industry.

“Wild fish simply can’t reproduce as fast as 7 billion people can eat them,” said Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist and founder of Ocean Collectiv.

The impact of overfishing is mostly on the marine environment, but the economy can also be affected immensely. The saltwater fishing industry in Florida is worth around $9.2 billion annually. The worth of the coral reefs in Florida is $375 billion each year. Overfishing could cost half of this.

Juan Andres Gonzalez, an environmental science student at Florida International University, passionately expresses his concern for the ecosystem.

“A majority of the fish in the Caribbean, Central Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico start their lives here in South Florida,” said Gonzalez. “Overfishing here means less fish everywhere.”

There are many kinds of overfishing. For instance, Environmental Science shows that a method used to catch clams does damage to the seafloor by killing worms that burrow at the ocean bottom. These worms are essential to the cycling of nutrients in the water.

Alastair Harborne, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences & the Institute of the Environment at Florida International University, said that overfishing affects more than just one species.

“Overfishing can have a range of impacts on the environment because it upsets the delicate balance of marine food webs, If one species is overexploited, it can have cascading effects on lots of other species,” said Harborne.

In the past 60 years, there has been a 90% decline in fishing stock. About 77.9 billion tons of fish are caught per year.

Figure information acquired from

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calculated that there are around 70,400 people who work both temporarily and permanently in fishing in the United States. The fish-based activities from the reefs produce $100 million in the United States per year.

“If fish stocks are overexploited and catches are reduced, it makes fishing less profitable and can lead to financial hardships. This can reduce fishing fleets and lead to unemployment,” said Harborne.

Figure Information from and

Research conducted by an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at New York University, Jennifer Jacquet, shows that one of the major causes of the problem is the “human appetite.”

“Consumer awareness attempts, though perhaps successful in raising awareness of seafood products, unfortunately made no demonstrable impacts on the resource itself,” said Jacquet.

Overfishing can also allow seaweed to grow, which often hinders coral reproduction, said Harborne.


“Overfishing [as opposed to sustainable fishing] reduces fish stocks to levels where they cannot support catches to feed coastal communities,” said Harborne. “Furthermore, fish have an important role in marine ecosystems. For example, parrotfish on coral reefs eat seaweed and allow corals to flourish. If fish such as parrotfish are overfished, they cannot carry out these roles.”

Nimechi Ikechi-Uko is a senior studying Journalism at FIU. She has an interest in writing. Her goals are to work for the Washington Post and get a book published.