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Illegal Fishing & How to Conserve the Health of Our Ocean

fishing boat on the ocean
Image courtesy of

Boston University put on a webinar on March 3rd, 2022 about illegal fishing, why it is a major problem, and things that we can do to help conserve the health of our oceans. This event was moderated by Associate Professor of Biology Peter Buston, who is also head of the BU Marine Program at the College of Arts & Sciences. The two speakers were Boston University alumni Dr. Kelly Kryc (GRS’03) and Fabien Cousteau (CGS‘89, MET’91). Kelly is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under President Biden. Fabien is an Aquanaut, Ocean Conservationist, Documentarian, and grandson of the famous Conservationist and Ocean Explorer, Jacques Cousteau.

Illegal fishing as defined by Kelly in simple terms is fishing that happens outside of the rules. Specifically, IUU fishing is illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, which is a huge problem in our world today because practices like this lead to declining fish populations, and dangerous cascading effects like the destruction of ecosystems, climate change, and ruptures in the economy. These impacts critically harm humans and the environment now and in the future. In many cases, illegal fishing is worsened further when subsidies are injected into the fishing industry. This creates an abuse of resources, overfishing, and incredibly large fishing fleets that lead to greater illegal fishing practices.

Even with the overfishing and illegal fishing problems that are present today, the speakers believe that fishing can still be part of a low-carbon future. In the US, we have some of the most sustainable fisheries in the world which can serve as examples for other countries. However, Fabien points out that 60% of the world’s wild fish stocks have been wiped out, and Kelly emphasizes that we as humans are removing more fish than populations can maintain. Even if countries like the US are making efforts toward sustainable fishing practices, Fabien says that there is not a country on this planet that is exempt from criticism regarding its management of resources. As he quotes from his grandfather, “Why are we still hunter-gatherers in the ocean when we have been farming on land for years?”

Even with the monumental problems that we currently face due to illegal fishing, there are many things that we can do to conserve the health of our oceans. Fabien suggests that we adjust our vocabulary to use the term “sea life” instead of seafood, giving more sense of value to these essential animals. This value means understanding the importance of the ocean and the impact that issues like plastic pollution and ocean acidification can have on our survival as humans. As Kelly stated, “Everything is interconnected. If you pull a thread on something, whether it be pollution or climate change, you will eventually reach the entire sweater.” Here in New England, we can also do our part by supporting places like the Seamounts Marine National Monument, a fully protected area with deep-sea corals, and as Fabien says, we can try to eat further down on the food web, and eat from more locally fished sources.

Fabien ended the event with a couple of powerful quotes. He said “We are the ocean, no ocean, no life, no healthy future.” He also said that one of the greatest inheritances he received from his father was the statement that “People protect what they love, love what they understand, and they understand what they are taught.” Seaside Sustainability’s efforts to engage and educate the public regarding sustainability are directly in line with these statements and help push our society towards a sustainable future. This can only be done if we address critical problems like illegal fishing. We highly recommend that you listen to the entire recorded webinar here. It was a phenomenal eye-opening event about the precarious problem of illegal fishing, and the importance of protecting our invaluable ocean.


Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office. (2022, March 14). Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. NOAA Fisheries. Retrieved April 16, 2022, from

Illegal Fishing & Conserving the Health of Our Ocean. Boston University Alumni & Friends. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2022, from

Illegal fishing & conserving the health of our ocean. Boston University Alumni & Friends. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2022, from


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