A group of ocean experts, including the UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, scientists and NGOs convening for a COP25 event today in Madrid, How can Ending Overfishing Mitigate Climate Change?, have called for immediate action by governments worldwide to end overfishing in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the world’s oceans.

“The combination of overfishing and climate change is deadly for fish stocks and marine ecosystems,” said Dr Rashid Sumaila, Professor and Director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.“The crisis in our fisheries and in our oceans and climate are not mutually exclusive problems to be addressed separately; and it is imperative that we move forward with holistic comprehensive solutions to address them. Ending overfishing would strengthen the ocean, making it more capable of withstanding climate change and restoring marine ecosystems – and it can be done now”.

recent, groundbreaking new study, co-authored by Dr Sumaila, demonstrates that ending overfishing – the practice of taking more fish from the ocean than what scientists estimate can be naturally replenished – is essential to build ocean resilience and can mitigate the impacts of climate change [1].

“There can be no healthy planetary ecosystem without a healthy Ocean ecosystem. To guarantee the latter, we must implement Sustainable Development Goal 14,” said Ambassador Peter Thomson, the UNSG’s Special Envoy for the Ocean. “SDG14’s fourth target calls for an end to overfishing by 2020. Putting a stop to overfishing is a very achievable target and one that governments should be implementing with vigor. It’s time to deliver on promises long-made.” [2]

“A healthy ocean with abundant wildlife is capable of slowing the rate of climate breakdown substantially,” said Dr Monica Verbeek, Executive Director at Seas At Risk. “To date, the most profound  impact on the marine environment has come from fishing -ending overfishing is a quick, deliverable action which will restore fish populations, create more resilient ocean ecosystems, decrease CO2 pollution and increase carbon capture, and deliver more profitable fisheries and thriving coastal communities. EU fisheries ministers committed to end overfishing when they signed up to the reformed Common Fisheries Policy – and they must achieve this when they meet in Brussels in ten days time by setting  fishing limits within scientific advice 2020.” [3]

“Decades of relentless overexploitation have wrecked the ocean, mostly due to destructive overfishing. Despite this, the problem remained a concern for those with a direct interest in fish – fishing companies, ministers, fisheries scientists. What is clear now, is that the impact of overfishing on ocean ecosystems goes far beyond these few players, and we have to start treating the ocean like it is the life-support system for all people that it is,” said Rebecca Hubbard, Programme Director for Our Fish. “The EU Council recently unanimously stressed the need for immediate action against increasing threats on the ocean – ending overfishing is that emergency climate action – and EU member states can deliver it when they meet on the 16th December.” [4]

COP25 Event: How can ending overfishing mitigate climate change ?
Join our panel of global experts to explore the role of fish and marine life in the carbon cycle and marine ecosystems, repercussions for the Arctic, and discuss how fulfilling existing commitments to ending overfishing is decisive climate action, that states can deliver this year.

Friday 6 December 13:00-14:30
Cryosphere Pavilion, Hall 8, IFEMA-Feria de Madrid
Watch live: Livestream link.

Dr Rashid Sumaila, Fisheries Economics Research Unit, Global Fisheries Cluster, The University of British Columbia
Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN Special Envoy for the Ocean
Angela Martin, Research Fellow, Centre for Coastal Research, University of Agder, Norway
Dr Martin Sommerkorn, WWF Arctic Program
Dr Monica Verbeek, Executive Director Seas At Risk
Dr Jacob Hagberg, Senior Scientific Officer of Swedish Ministry of Environment


[1] Ending Overfishing Is Opportunity to Combat Climate Crisis – Report

[2] Under UN Sustainable Development Goal 14.4, governments commit to “effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics, by 2020. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg14

[3] EU 2013. Common Fisheries Policy. REGULATION (EU) No 1380/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1954/2003 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2371/2002 and (EC) No 639/2004 and Council Decision 2004/585/EC

[4] Brussels, 19 November 2019 (OR. en) 14249/19; General Secretariat of the Council; Council conclusions on Oceans and Seas https://www.consilium.europa.eu//media/41384/st14249-en19.pdf?utm_source=dsms-auto&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Oceans+and+seas+threatened+by+climate+change%3a+Council+adopts+conclusions