So Much for Fish & Chips: Greenpeace List of Most Over-Fished Species

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Back of man wearing a green Greenpeace jacket

Markus Spiske / Unsplash

Rampant overfishing in the high seas and its detrimental effects on marine ecosystems is hardly anything new: with a generous smattering of indications here and there of trouble ahead for the world's oceans, including a relatively recent report warning that without drastic action, all wild seafood could disappear within fifty years.

Greenpeace's Campaign Against Overfishing

Now, in addition to its highly-publicized and dramatic anti-whaling efforts, Greenpeace has upped the ante by launching a campaign targeting a list of twenty-two over-fished 'red' species currently being sold by suppliers and eaten by consumers. According to their website, the aim is to "start at the source" and confront and stop supermarkets from carrying these endangered species. Some of the species most threatened by overfishing currently include Atlantic Halibut, the Monkfish, all sharks, and Blue Fin Tuna. Other animals not usually associated with the seafood industry are also affected, with inadvertent by-catches claiming loggerhead turtles, sharks, dolphins and whales. "No-where in management plans do we budget for marine mammals, birds and other fish that are killed as by-catch," says Phil Kline, a Greenpeace oceans campaigner, noting that the Alaskan Pollock fisheries for instance has already triggered declines other populations, including the endangered Northern Fur Seal.

Five different criteria were used by Greenpeace to identify species in the 'red': first, the status of the fish, whether they are threatened or endangered; second, whether destructive fishing methods are used (such as bottom trawling); third, whether harvesting the fish has negative impact on non-target species through by-catch; fourth, whether fish are caught illegally by unregulated fishing operations (or "pirate fishing"); and fifth, whether the fishery involved negatively impacts on local communities which depend on fishing for their livelihoods.

In addition to the 'red list', Greenpeace is also encouraging the designation of 40% of oceans as "no-take" zones (instead of the current 1%) in order to allow fish stocks to recover.

The 22 Most Threatened Fish Species

Conscientious seafood consumers take note — here are the twenty-two 'red' species:

Alaska Pollock
Atlantic Cod or Scrod
Atlantic Halibut (US and Canadian)
Atlantic Salmon (wild and farmed)
Atlantic Sea Scallop
Bluefin tuna
Big Eye Tuna
Chilean Sea Bass (also sold as Patagonia Toothfish)
Greenland Halibut (also sold as Black halibut, Atlantic turbot or Arrowhead flounder)
Grouper (imported to the U.S.)
Hoki (also known as Blue Grenadier)
Ocean Quahog
Orange Roughy
Red Snapper
Redfish (also sold as Ocean Perch)
Skates and Rays
South Atlantic Albacore Tuna
Tropical Shrimp (wild and farmed)
Yellowfin Tuna

Greenpeace via