The Global Overfishing Crisis from Argentina’s Perspective

Argentina believes that the crisis of overfishing is a significant issue that requires immediate attention.  Studies have shown that overfishing is mutually dangerous for fisherman and marine species.  An overfished stock of fish will drastically disrupt the food chain of the surrounding ecosystem, as their population has been carefully placed into equilibrium by millennia of natural processes.  This results in certain species becoming too abundant while other species near extinction. On the commercial side, an overfished stock of fish may create short-term economic prosperity but will soon lead to a severe shortage of product.  This is because, in an overfished stock of fish, the fish are fished faster than they can reproduce.  This process is inherently unsustainable and creates economic and environmental crises.

Overfishing occurs very frequently in the modern world and has been on the rise for the past half-century.  Since the 1970s, the percent of the world’s fish stocks that are overfished has risen from 10% to 33%. In the same time period, global stocks of large fish have dwindled by 90%.  This substantial uptick in overfishing has come despite the increase in knowledge of the dangers of overfishing provided by scientific research. Additionally, it has come despite many countries’ efforts to protect species of fish.  

Part of the problem arises from the illegal fishing industry, which is estimated to be worth $10-23 billion per year. These fleets of fish dodge regulations around the fishing industry that were implemented to protect the species from overfishing.  However, legal fishing contributes to the crisis as well.  The fishing technique of trawling, which was only recently made illegal by major countries, has played a substantial role in the crisis.  When fisherman trawl, their nets drag along the ocean floor.  This effectively kills all life at this ocean level, causing many environmental problems. The ocean floor is home to many benthic organisms that are the feed for commercial fish such as tuna.  When an ocean floor is trawled, these vital organisms are killed, and, due to continuous trawling and their long recovery time, they are unable to regrow.  Trawling also destroys coral reefs, which are the breeding grounds for many fundamentally important species of fish.  

China can be partly blamed for the increase in frequency of overfishing. China has the largest middle-class population in the world, and its proportion has only been growing.  Due to this, their citizens enjoy newly-attained economic prosperity and, therefore, are demanding luxury goods.  Fish is one of these things, as it tends to be more expensive and higher-class.  However, China has already overfished their own economic zone.  Within this area, they havelost one-half of coastal wetlands, 57% of mangroves, and 80% of coral reefs, the breeding grounds for many fish species.  They have also trawled their waters vigorously until the practice was finally banned by the Chinese government in 2015.  This has forced them to reach into foreign waters for their fish supply, a practice that was encouraged by their president in 2013.  Among these waters are those of Argentina, a country with a miniscule coast guard of only eight ships.  Argentina relies significantly on fishing for its economy, as it brings in an annual $12 billion in revenue, yet China routinely fishes its waters.  The Chinese government hides this practice, as they have publicly stated that their distant-water fishing vessels only take in around 370,000 tons of fish, yet research institutions and non-governmental organizations have estimated this value to actually be around 3.1 million tons, an increase of almost tenfold.  

Argentina believes that China must be pressured into preventing their distant-water shipping vessels from overfishing foreign waters. Additionally, Argentina believes that many of the subsidies that China provides to its fishing industry should be eliminated, for without these, their distant-water fishing industry would yield no net profit.