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Oceanography: Fishing

Year 10 Elective Geography




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A healthy ocean has diverse ecosystems and robust habitats. But a myriad of human pressures – from overfishing to climate change – are causing ecosystems to collapse, the extinction of many marine species and the destruction of ocean habitats.


Making sure all rules are complied with is an essential part of managing fisheries. 

Our aim is to effectively deter illegal fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone. The rules and regulations of Commonwealth fisheries are designed to protect our fish for the future, the properties rights of our fishers and the broader marine environment.


Wild fisheries in Australia are managed either by the Commonwealth (federal) government’s Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) or by state and territory fisheries departments.



We have over 320 different species of sharks and rays, and 70 of these species are unique to Australia, found nowhere else on earth!

Unfortunately, commercial fishing using trawlers, gillnets and longlines puts our ocean wildlife at risk. Snubfin dolphins and dugongs drown in gillnets set in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to catch barramundi. Seabirds and turtles are killed on longlines set to catch tuna. Endangered sawfish are killed in trawlers across our tropical north.


David Attenborough says a global agreement to end harmful fisheries subsidies is possible. The 164 member governments of the World Trade Organization have pledged to reach a deal before 2020. These subsidies, worth tens of billions in public money, are keeping destructive fishing activities afloat. They enable large industrial fishing boats to fish, even when fish stocks could collapse. They make it harder for small-scale fishermen to thrive and contribute to illegal fishing.

The United Nations says 90% of the world's fisheries have collapsed, and the Chinese are the biggest culprits. By a long way, China has the world's largest deep sea fishing fleet including 2,600 mega trawlers stripping the ocean floor. They're helping satisfy China's insatiable appetite for seafood. The Chinese eat more than a third of the world's fish supplies. Despite tough new laws to help ensure stock, there are serious concerns about how long it can be sustained.

The World Wildlife Fund shows us the importance of creating sustainable fisheries to preserve the world's fish populations.

This video is a part of Conservation Strategy Fund's collection of environmental economic lessons and was made possible thanks to the support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Marcia Brady Tucker Foundation. This series is for individuals who want to learn - or review - the basic economics of conservation. The first of our Fisheries Economics & Policy series, this video introduces the concept of how a population of fish can be managed sustainably. The series will cover management strategies to preserve fishing in the long term and will include concepts such as open access, common-pool resources, tragedy of the commons, maximum economic yield, taxes and subsidies, reducing effort, territorial use rights, transferable quotas and externalities.

More than 4.5 million tons of tuna are caught each year as part of a $5 billion industry that is an economic lifeline for Pacific island countries. But for how much longer? The race is on to see if technology can also help save a commodity that is a way of life for so many. Harvest rates have been increasing dramatically over the last decade, placing pressure on a resource that is vital as a food source and an important means of livelihood. Technology is but one part of the tuna picture. UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) continue to make significant investments to improve fisheries management.

The ocean is facing its greatest ever challenge—overfishing, pollution and climate change are all threatening the health of a resource on which the whole world depends. How can it be addressed?



Billions of people around the world rely on fish as a source of protein and fishing is the principal livelihood of millions. Maintaining the balance of exquisite life in our oceans is just as critical to life on land.


Department of Agriculture Water and the Environment

‚Äč‚ÄčAustralia is party to a range of conventions that establish global, regional and subregional management organisations that manage highly migratory, straddling, pelagic and demersal fish stock.

United Nations

Calling for strengthening the fight against illegal fishing, the United Nations food security agency has urged all countries to join a landmark global treaty that aims to rid the world of the multibillion-dollar scourge.

National Geographic

Sustainable fishing guarantees there will be populations of ocean and freshwater wildlife in the future.


YALE Environment 360

The high seas remain an often-dystopian realm where the scant laws that do exist are frequently ignored. This has led to overfishing, illegal dumping, and other environmental abuses that are closely linked to human rights violations aboard thousands of vessels.