Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Biology

Degree Level



Biological Sciences


Boss, Steve

Committee Member/Reader

Magoulick, Daniel

Committee Member/Second Reader

Beaupre, Steven

Committee Member/Third Reader

Wheeler, Jill


Overfishing is a global issue that poses a significant risk to the entire ocean ecosystem in diminishing biodiversity and ecosystem function. This thesis examined the pattern and pace of fisheries depletions due to commercial fishing during the past 70 years. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Division of Fisheries and Aquaculture maintains a database of global hauls of marine taxa (reported in metric tonnes) from 1950 – 2019. These data were queried to determine the total number and sequence of fisheries depletions documented by the historic record. Analysis of this database showed progressive, linearly-increasing exploitation of marine/aquatic taxa from 619 in 1950 to 2,459 in 2019. Depletions of taxa, on the other hand, were observed to increase exponentially (ca. 5% annually) such that nearly 25% of exploited taxa are currently depleted. The current trends of exploitations and depletions projected forward in time produces a textbook example of a Malthusian Catastrophe in 2056. At that time, exponentially-increasing depletions will equal linearly-increasing exploitations. The ecological impact of the Malthusian Catastrophe and its cascading effects across the global ocean ecosystem are unknown, but likely herald the demise of the commercial fishing industry and potential collapse of the entire marine ecosystem.


Overfishing, Marine Science, Fishery Depletions