A conventional idea of a sustainable fishery is that it is one that is harvested at a sustainable rate, where the fish population does not decline over time because of fishing practices. Sustainability in fisheries combines theoretical disciplines, such as the population dynamics of fisheries, with practical strategies, such as avoiding overfishing through techniques such as individual fishing quotas, curtailing destructive and illegal fishing practices by lobbying for appropriate law and policy, setting up protected areas, restoring collapsed fisheries, incorporating all externalities involved in harvesting marine ecosystems into fishery economics, educating stakeholders and the wider public, and developing independent certification programs.
Some primary concerns around sustainability are that heavy fishing pressures, such as overexploitation and growth or recruitment overfishing, will result in the loss of significant potential yield; that stock structure will erode to the point where it loses diversity and resilience to environmental fluctuations; that ecosystems and their economic infrastructures will cycle between collapse and recovery; with each cycle less productive than its predecessor; and that changes will occur in the trophic balance (fishing down marine food webs).
Daniel Pauly and Dave Preikshot,
Global wild fisheries are believed to have peaked and begun a decline, with valuable habitats, such as estuaries and coral reefs, in critical condition.Current aquaculture or farming of piscivorous fish, such as salmon, does not solve the problem because farmed piscivores are fed products from wild fish, such as forage fish. Salmon farming also has major negative impacts on wild salmon. Fish that occupy the higher trophic levels are less efficient sources of food energy.
Fishery ecosystems are an important subset of the wider marine environment. This article documents the views of fisheries scientists and marine conservationists about innovative approaches towards sustainable fisheries.
Senegalese conservationist Baba Dioum,
In his 1883 inaugural address to the International Fisheries Exhibition in London, Thomas Huxley asserted that overfishing or "permanent exhaustion" was scientifically impossible, and stated that probably "all the great sea fisheries are inexhaustible".In reality, by 1883 marine fisheries were already collapsing. The United States Fish Commission was established 12 years earlier for the purpose of finding why fisheries in New England were declining. At the time of Huxley's address, the Atlantic halibut fishery had already collapsed (and has never recovered).
Traditionally, fisheries management and the science underpinning it was distorted by its "narrow focus on target populations and the corresponding failure to account for ecosystem effects leading to declines of species abundance and diversity" and by perceiving the fishing industry as "the sole legitimate user, in effect the owner, of marine living resources." Historically, stock assessment scientists usually worked in government laboratories and considered their work to be providing services to the fishing industry. These scientists dismissed conservation issues and distanced themselves from the scientists and the science that raised the issues. This happened even as commercial fish stocks deteriorated, and even though many governments were signatories to binding conservation agreements.
Ray Hilborn, of the University of Washington, distinguishes three ways of defining a sustainable fishery:
Fisheries and aquaculture are, directly or indirectly, a source of livelihood for over 500 million people, mostly in developing countries.
Social sustainability can conflict with biodiversity. A fishery is socially sustainable if the fishery ecosystem maintains the ability to deliver products the society can use. Major species shifts within the ecosystem could be acceptable as long as the flow of such products continues.Humans have been operating such regimes for thousands of years, transforming many ecosystems, depleting or driving to extinction many species.
To a great extent, sustainability is like good art, it is hard to describe but we know it when we see it.— Ray Hilborn,
According to Hilborn, the "loss of some species, and indeed transformation of the ecosystem is not incompatible with sustainable harvests."For example, in recent years, barndoor skates have been caught as bycatch in the western Atlantic. Their numbers have severely declined and they will probably go extinct if these catch rates continue. Even if the barndoor skate goes extinct, changing the ecosystem, there could still be sustainable fishing of other commercial species.
At the Fourth World Fisheries Congress in 2004, Daniel Pauly asked, "How can fisheries science and conservation biology achieve a reconciliation?", then answered his own question, "By accepting each other’s essentials: that fishing should remain a viable occupation; and that aquatic ecosystems and their biodiversity are allowed to persist."
A relatively new concept is relationship farming. This is a way of operating farms so they restore the food chain in their area. Re-establishing a healthy food chain can result in the farm automatically filtering out impurities from feed water and air, feeding its own food chain, and additionally producing high net yields for harvesting. An example is the large cattle ranch Veta La Palma in southern Spain. Relationship farming was first made popular by Joel Salatin who created a 220 hectare relationship farm featured prominently in Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma (2006) and the documentary films, Food, Inc. and Fresh. The basic concept of relationship farming is to put effort into building a healthy food chain, and then the food chain does the hard work.
Overfishing can be sustainable. According to Hilborn, overfishing can be "a misallocation of societies' resources", but it does not necessarily threaten conservation or sustainability".
Overfishing is traditionally defined as harvesting so many fish that the yield is less than it would be if fishing were reduced.For example, Pacific salmon are usually managed by trying to determine how many spawning salmon, called the "escapement", are needed each generation to produce the maximum harvestable surplus. The optimum escapement is that needed to reach that surplus. If the escapement is half the optimum, then normal fishing looks like overfishing. But this is still sustainable fishing, which could continue indefinitely at its reduced stock numbers and yield. There is a wide range of escapement sizes that present no threat that the stock might collapse or that the stock structure might erode.
On the other hand, overfishing can precede severe stock depletion and fishery collapse.Hilborn points out that continuing to exert fishing pressure while production decreases, stock collapses and the fishery fails, is largely "the product of institutional failure."
Today over 70% of fish species are either fully exploited, overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. If overfishing does not decrease, it is predicted that stocks of all species currently commercially fished for will collapse by 2048.”
A Hubbert linearization (Hubbert curve) has been applied to the whaling industry, as well as charting the price of caviar, which depends on sturgeon stocks.Another example is North Sea cod. Comparing fisheries and mineral extraction tells us that human pressure on the environment is causing a wide range of resources to go through a Hubbert depletion cycle.
Nearly all the world's continental shelves, and large areas of continental slopes, underwater ridges, and seamounts, have had heavy bottom trawls and dredges repeatedly dragged over their surfaces. For fifty years, governments and organizations, such as the Asian Development Bank, have encouraged the fishing industry to develop trawler fleets. Repeated bottom trawling and dredging literally flattens diversity in the benthic habitat, radically changing the associated communities.
Since 1950, 90 percent of 25 species of big predator fish have gone.
Rising ocean temperaturesand ocean acidification are radically altering aquatic ecosystems. Climate change is modifying fish distribution and the productivity of marine and freshwater species. This reduces sustainable catch levels across many habitats, puts pressure on resources needed for aquaculture, on the communities that depend on fisheries, and on the oceans' ability to capture and store carbon (biological pump). Sea level rise puts coastal fishing communities at risk, while changing rainfall patterns and water use impact on inland (freshwater) fisheries and aquaculture.
A recent survey of global ocean health concluded that all parts of the ocean have been affected by human development and that 41 percent has been fouled with human polluted runoff, overfishing, and other abuses.Pollution is not easy to fix, because pollution sources are so dispersed, and are built into the economic systems we depend on.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) mapped the impacts of stressors such as climate change, pollution, exotic species, and over-exploitation of resources on the oceans. The report shows at least 75 percent of the world's key fishing grounds may be affected.
Large predator fish can contain significant amounts of mercury, a neurotoxin which can affect fetal development, memory, mental focus, and produce tremors.
Lakes are dependent on the inflow of water from its drainage basin. In some areas, aggressive irrigation has caused this inflow to decrease significantly, causing water depletion and a shrinking of the lake. The most notable example is the Aral Sea, formerly among the four largest lakes in the world, now only a tenth of its former surface area.
Fisheries management draws on fisheries science to enable sustainable exploitation. Modern fisheries management is often defined as mandatory rules based on concrete objectives and a mix of management techniques, enforced by a monitoring control and surveillance system.
According to marine ecologist Chris Frid, the fishing industry points to marine pollution and global warming as the causes of recent, unprecedented declines in fish populations. Frid counters that overfishing has also altered the way the ecosystem works. "Everybody would like to see the rebuilding of fish stocks and this can only be achieved if we understand all of the influences, human and natural, on fish dynamics.” He adds: “fish communities can be altered in a number of ways, for example they can decrease if particular-sized individuals of a species are targeted, as this affects predator and prey dynamics. Fishing, however, is not the sole cause of changes to marine life — pollution is another example....No one factor operates in isolation and components of the ecosystem respond differently to each individual factor."
The traditional approach to fisheries science and management has been to focus on a single species. This can be contrasted with the ecosystem-based approach. Ecosystem-based fishery concepts have been implemented in some regions.In a 2007 effort to "stimulate much needed discussion" and "clarify the essential components" of ecosystem-based fisheries science, a group of scientists offered the following ten commandments for ecosystem-based fisheries scientists
- Keep a perspective that is holistic, risk-averse and adaptive.
- Maintain an “old growth” structure in fish populations, since big, old and fat female fish have been shown to be the best spawners, but are also susceptible to overfishing.
- Characterize and maintain the natural spatial structure of fish stocks, so that management boundaries match natural boundaries in the sea.
- Monitor and maintain seafloor habitats to make sure fish have food and shelter.
- Maintain resilient ecosystems that are able to withstand occasional shocks.
- Identify and maintain critical food-web connections, including predators and forage species.
- Adapt to ecosystem changes through time, both short-term and on longer cycles of decades or centuries, including global climate change.
- Account for evolutionary changes caused by fishing, which tends to remove large, older fish.
- Include the actions of humans and their social and economic systems in all ecological equations.
Strategies and techniques for marine conservation tend to combine theoretical disciplines, such as population biology, with practical conservation strategies, such as setting up protected areas, as with Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas. Each nation defines MPAs independently, but they commonly involve increased protection for the area from fishing and other threats.
Marine life is not evenly distributed in the oceans. Most of the really valuable ecosystems are in relatively shallow coastal waters, above or near the continental shelf, where the sunlit waters are often nutrient rich from land runoff or upwellings at the continental edge, allowing photosynthesis, which energizes the lowest trophic levels. In the 1970s, for reasons more to do with oil drilling than with fishing, the U.S. extended its jurisdiction, then 12 miles from the coast, to 200 miles. This made huge shelf areas part of its territory. Other nations followed, extending national control to what became known as the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This move has had many implications for fisheries conservation, since it means that most of the most productive maritime ecosystems are now under national jurisdictions, opening possibilities for protecting these ecosystems by passing appropriate laws.
Daniel Pauly characterises marine protected areas as "a conservation tool of revolutionary importance that is being incorporated into the fisheries mainstream."The Pew Charitable Trusts have funded various initiatives aimed at encouraging the development of MPAs and other ocean conservation measures.
There exists concerns that farmed fish cannot produce necessary yields efficiently. For example, farmed salmon eat three pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of salmon.
International laws and treaties related to marine conservation include the 1966 Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas. United States laws related to marine conservation include the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as the 1972 Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act which established the National Marine Sanctuaries program. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
Various organizations promote sustainable fishing strategies, educate the public and stakeholders, and lobby for conservation law and policy. The list includes the Marine Conservation Biology Institute and Blue Frontier Campaign in the U.S., The U.K.'s Frontier (The Society for Environmental Exploration) and Marine Conservation Society, Australian Marine Conservation Society, International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), Langkawi Declaration, Oceana, PROFISH, and the Sea Around Us Project, International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers, Frozen at Sea Fillets Association and CEDO.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) include, as goal #7: target 2, the intention to "reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss", including improving fisheries management to reduce depletion of fish stocks.In 2015, the MDGs then evolved to become the Sustainable Development Goals with Goal 14 aimed at conserving life below water.
Some organizations certify fishing industry players for sustainable or good practices, such as the Marine Stewardship Council and Friend of the Sea.
Other organizations offer advice to members of the public who eat with an eye to sustainability. According to the marine conservation biologist Callum Roberts, four criteria apply when choosing seafood:
- Is the species in trouble in the wild where the animals were caught?
- Does fishing for the species damage ocean habitats?
- Is there a large amount of bycatch taken with the target species?
- Does the fishery have a problem with discards—generally, undersized animals caught and thrown away because their market value is low?
The following organizations have download links for wallet-sized cards, listing good and bad choices:
One of the major impediments to the rational control of marine resources is inadequate data. According to fisheries scientist Milo Adkison (2007), the primary limitation in fisheries management decisions is poor data. Fisheries management decisions are often based on population models, but the models need quality data to be accurate. Scientists and fishery managers would be better served with simpler models and improved data.
Estimates of illegal catch losses range between $10 billion and $23 billion annually, representing between 11 and 26 million tonnes.
Shifting baselines is the way significant changes to a system are measured against previous baselines, which themselves may represent significant changes from the original state of the system. The term was first used by the fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly in his paper "Anecdotes and the shifting baseline syndrome of fisheries".Pauly developed the term in reference to fisheries management where fisheries scientists sometimes fail to identify the correct "baseline" population size (e.g. how abundant a fish species population was before human exploitation) and thus work with a shifted baseline. He describes the way that radically depleted fisheries were evaluated by experts who used the state of the fishery at the start of their careers as the baseline, rather than the fishery in its untouched state. Areas that swarmed with a particular species hundreds of years ago, may have experienced long-term decline, but it is the level of decades previously that is considered the appropriate reference point for current populations. In this way large declines in ecosystems or species over long periods of time were, and are, masked. There is a loss of perception of change that occurs when each generation redefines what is "natural".
Looting the seas is the name given by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to a series of journalistic investigations into areas directly affecting the sustainability of fisheries. So far they have investigated three areas involving fraud, negligence and overfishing:
The focus of sustainable fishing is often on the fish. Other factors are sometimes included in the broader question of sustainability. The use of non-renewable resources is not fully sustainable. This might include diesel fuel for the fishing ships and boats: there is even a debate about the long term sustainability of biofuels. Modern fishing nets are usually made of artificial polyamides like nylon. Synthetic braided ropes are generally made from nylon, polyester, polypropylene or high performance fibers such as ultra high modulus polyethylene (HMPE) and aramid.
Energy and resources are employed in fish processing, refrigeration, packaging, logistics, etc. The methodologies of Life-cycle assessment are useful to evaluate the sustainability of components and systems.These are part of the broad question of sustainability.
FishBase is a global species database of fish species. It is the largest and most extensively accessed online database on adult finfish on the web. Over time it has "evolved into a dynamic and versatile ecological tool" that is widely cited in scholarly publications.
Generally a fishery is an entity engaged in raising or harvesting fish which is determined by some authority to be a fishery. According to the FAO, "...a fishery is an activity leading to harvesting of fish. It may involve capture of wild fish or raising of fish through aquaculture." It is typically defined in terms of the "people involved, species or type of fish, area of water or seabed, method of fishing, class of boats, purpose of the activities or a combination of the foregoing features". The definition often includes a combination of fish and fishers in a region, the latter fishing for similar species with similar gear types. Some government and private organizations, especially those focusing on recreational fishing include in their definitions not only the fishers, but the fish and habitats upon which the fish depend.
Overfishing is the removal of a species of fish from a body of water at a rate that the species cannot replenish, resulting in those species becoming underpopulated in that area. In a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2018 report, the FAO estimates that one-third of world fish stocks were overfished by 2015. Over 30 billion euros in public subsidies are directed to fisheries annually.
The goal of Fisheries management is to produce sustainable biological, social, and economic benefits from renewable aquatic resources. Fisheries are classified as renewable because the organisms of interest usually produce an annual biological surplus that with judicious management can be harvested without reducing future productivity. Fisheries management employs activities that protect fishery resources so sustainable exploitation is possible, drawing on fisheries science and possibly including the precautionary principle. Modern fisheries management is often referred to as a governmental system of appropriate management rules based on defined objectives and a mix of management means to implement the rules, which are put in place by a system of monitoring control and surveillance. A popular approach is the ecosystem approach to fisheries management. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are "no clear and generally accepted definitions of fisheries management". However, the working definition used by the FAO and much cited elsewhere is:
The integrated process of information gathering, analysis, planning, consultation, decision-making, allocation of resources and formulation and implementation, with enforcement as necessary, of regulations or rules which govern fisheries activities in order to ensure the continued productivity of the resources and the accomplishment of other fisheries objectives.
Daniel Pauly is a French-born marine biologist, well known for his work in studying human impacts on global fisheries. He is a professor and the project leader of the Sea Around Us Project at the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia. He also served as Director of the UBC Fisheries Centre from November 2003 to October 2008.
Fisheries science is the academic discipline of managing and understanding fisheries. It is a multidisciplinary science, which draws on the disciplines of limnology, oceanography, freshwater biology, marine biology, meteorology, conservation, ecology, population dynamics, economics, statistics, decision analysis, management, and many others in an attempt to provide an integrated picture of fisheries. In some cases new disciplines have emerged, as in the case of bioeconomics and fisheries law. Because fisheries science is such an all-encompassing field, fisheries scientists often use methods from a broad array of academic disciplines. Over the most recent several decades, there has been declines in fish stocks (populations) in many regions along with increasing concern about the impact of intensive fishing on marine and freshwater biodiversity.
Marine conservation, also known as ocean conservation, refers to the study of marine plants and animal resources and ecosystem functions. It is the protection and preservation of ecosystems in oceans and seas through planned management in order to prevent the exploitation of these resources. Marine conservation is driven by the manifested negative effects being seen in our environment such as species loss, habitat degradation and changes in ecosystem functions and focuses on limiting human-caused damage to marine ecosystems, restoring damaged marine ecosystems, and preserving vulnerable species and ecosystems of the marine life. Marine conservation is a relatively new discipline which has developed as a response to biological issues such as extinction and marine habitats change.
The Sea Around Us is an international research initiative and a member of the Global Fisheries Cluster at the University of British Columbia. The Sea Around Us assesses the impact of fisheries on the marine ecosystems of the world and offers mitigating solutions to a range of stakeholders. To achieve this, the Sea Around Us presents fisheries and fisheries-related data at spatial scales that have ecological and policy relevance, such as by Exclusive Economic Zones, High Seas areas, or Large Marine Ecosystems.
Unsustainable fishing methods refers to the utilization of the various fishing methods in order to capture or harvest fish, at a rate which sees the declining of fish populations over time. These methods are observed to facilitate the destructive fishing practices that destroy ecosystems within the ocean, and is used as a tool for over-fishing which results in the depletion of fish populations at a rate that cannot be sustained.
The environmental impact of fishing includes issues such as the availability of fish, overfishing, fisheries, and fisheries management; as well as the impact of industrial fishing on other elements of the environment, such as by-catch. These issues are part of marine conservation, and are addressed in fisheries science programs. According to a 2019 FAO report, global production of fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic animals has continued to grow and reached 172.6 million tonnes in 2017, with an increase of 4.1 percent compared with 2016. There is a growing gap between the supply of fish and demand, due in part to world population growth.
Sustainable seafood is seafood that is either caught or farmed in ways that consider the long-term vitality of harvested species and the well-being of the oceans, as well as the livelihoods of fisheries-dependent communities. It was first promoted through the sustainable seafood movement which began in the 1990s. This operation highlights overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing methods. Through a number of initiatives, the movement has increased awareness and raised concerns over the way our seafood is obtained.
A fishery is an area with an associated fish or aquatic population which is harvested for its commercial value. Fisheries can be marine (saltwater) or freshwater. They can also be wild or farmed.
As with other countries, the 200 nautical miles (370 km) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off the coast of the United States gives its fishing industry special fishing rights. It covers 11.4 million square kilometres, which is the second largest zone in the world, exceeding the land area of the United States.
Ray Hilborn is a marine biologist and fisheries scientist, known for his work on conservation and natural resource management in the context of fisheries. He is currently professor of aquatic and fishery science at the University of Washington. He focuses on conservation, natural resource management, fisheries stock assessment and risk analysis, and advises several international fisheries commissions and agencies.
The full relationship between fisheries and climate change is difficult to explore due to the context of each fishery and the many pathways that climate change affects. However, there is strong global evidence for these effects. Rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification are radically altering marine aquatic ecosystems, while freshwater ecosystems are being impacted by changes in water temperature, water flow, and fish habitat loss. Climate change is modifying fish distribution and the productivity of marine and freshwater species.
Fishing down the food web is the process whereby fisheries in a given ecosystem, "having depleted the large predatory fish on top of the food web, turn to increasingly smaller species, finally ending up with previously spurned small fish and invertebrates".
Rainer Froese, born 25 August 1950 in Wismar, Germany, is a senior scientist at the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research (GEOMAR) in Kiel, formerly the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR), and a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation. He obtained an MSc in Biology in 1985 at the University of Kiel and a PhD in Biology in 1990 from the University of Hamburg. Early in his career, he worked at the Institute of Marine Sciences on computer-aided identification systems and the life strategies of fish larvae. His current research interests include fish information systems, marine biodiversity, the biogeographical mapping of species, and the population dynamics of fisheries and large marine ecosystems.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to fisheries:
The Nereus Program is a global interdisciplinary initiative between the Nippon Foundation and the University of British Columbia that was created to further our knowledge of how best to attain sustainability for our world’s oceans. In addition to the Nippon Foundation and UBC, the program partners with University of Cambridge, Duke University, Princeton University, Stockholm University, United Nations Environment Program-World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Utrecht University. The program is built around three core objectives: to conduct collaborative ocean research across the natural and social sciences, to develop an interdisciplinary network of experts that can engage in discussion of complex and multifaceted questions of ocean sustainability, and to transfer these ideas to practical solutions in global policy forums.
Sustainable Development Goal 14 is about "Life below water" which is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015. The official wording is to "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development". The Goal has ten targets to be achieved by 2030. Progress towards each target is being measured with one indicator each.