More than Half the World’s Ocean is Industrially Fished

More than 55% of the ocean was industrially fished in 2016 (

Research, supported by the Bertarelli Foundation and recently published by Prof. Barbara Block, Dr. Francesco Ferretti and Timothy White of Stanford University, has shed light on how the impact of industrial fishing is felt around the world.  Using innovative satellite tracking data from over 70,000 fishing vessels, the researchers were able to map fishing activity on a scale which was impossible until now.

Dr. Francesco Ferretti said:

“This is a game-changing platform that can generate validated local and global maps of industrial fishing at unprecedented resolution.”

Dr. Ferretti and his collaborators found that:

  • Whilst most countries fished mainly within their own exclusive economic zones, five countries (China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea) accounted for more than 85 per cent. of the observed fishing effort on the high seas
  • More than 55 per cent. of the ocean was fished in 2016. This is more than four times the area of all Earth used for agriculture
  • Christmas and weekends had the greatest effect on fishing patterns in most of the world, while Chinese New Year and summertime fishing bans had the biggest impact on the movements of Chinese fleets
  • While some fleets did display seasonal movements, the work week, holidays and political closures were much more influential than ocean conditions or fish-migrations in determining fishing activity

Prof. Barbara Block said:

“This highlights the impact of industrial fishing with an unprecedented level of detail and transparency.  It could help shape more sustainable practices that ensure a future for tunas, billfish and sharks.”

DOI: 10.1126/science.aao5646