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How Many Fish Are Caught Illegally Each Year?

Approximately 20% of fish are caught illegally each year, or over 11 million metric tons of fish, according to 2014 estimates reported by National Geographic. Illegal means of catching fish include fishing during off season times, using banned gear, and harvesting from restricted bodies of water. A concern for environmental groups is that illegal fishing may potentially deplete the supply of fish in coastal waters. The economic impact of illegal fishing is estimated to be around from $11 billion to $23.5 billion US Dollars (USD) each year, with the practice being most prevalent in areas such as Belize and Guatemala, with low fishing enforcement by the government due to lack of funding or federal regulations.

More about illegal fishing:

  • In 2014, drones, or small unmanned aircraft equipped with video devices, were implemented in Belize to combat illegal fishing by flying randomly over the water for surveillance.

  • The penalties for illegal fishing often are a fraction of the potential profit--for example, an illegal fishing case in the US was given a $3,500 USD fine for an illegal fish supply worth an estimated $1 million USD.

  • Illegal fishing is estimated to put over 260 million jobs at risk worldwide.

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