Overfishing 101 – A Beginner's Guide

Understanding U.S. Fisheries Management

Part 1 of a 2 part series from National Geographic’s News Watch.  Photo by Captain Tom Migdalski


The United States has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world, containing 3.4 million square miles [8.8 million square kilometers] of ocean and 90,000 miles [145,000 kilometers] of coastline.[i] Throughout this vast underwater realm, fish play an essential role in the interconnected web of life on which we depend. In fact, they are one of America’s most valuable natural resources, adding billions to the U.S. economy and supporting millions of jobs through fishing and recreation.

Unfortunately, overfishing—taking fish from our oceans faster than they can reproduce—has plagued U.S. oceans for decades and continues today. This squanders valuable fish populations and weakens ocean ecosystems, making them more vulnerable to problems like pollution, natural disturbances and climate change.

The good news is that we have a strong law in place in the United States governing how fish are managed in federal waters, and serious efforts are underway to end overfishing and rebuild depleted populations

Read more.

The U.S. is an ocean nation. Its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), extending 200 miles offshore, is larger than the combined land area of all 50 states--the largest in the world. The EEZ encompasses diverse ecosystems and vast natural resources, such as energy and mineral resources--and fisheries. (Courtesy: NOAA Fisheries Service).