Fishermen run out of new seas to conquer
December 07 2010 Fish2Fork
Trawler in the Firth of Clyde
The fishing industry has colonised the seas so effectively that the only areas left to move into are in remote Arctic and Antarctic waters or near-barren areas of the high seas, a study has shown.
In the first study of its kind researchers have found that from 1950 the fishing industry extended its operations at about one degree of latitude each year. Until the 1970s they expanded at an annual rate of a million square kilometres.
But by the mid-1990s they had virtually run out of new fishing grounds, leading to a fall in the overall catch, according to the study published in the journal PloS ONE.
From 1950 to the late 1980s there was a five-fold increase in the total catch from 19 million tonnes to 90 million tonnes but from the 1990s it began to fall and by 2005 it had slipped to 87 million tonnes.
The greatest rates of expansion took place in the 1980s and the early 1990s by which time the Arctic, Antarctic and low-production zones in the high seas were the only untouched places left.
Enric Sala, a fellow of the National Geographic Society, said: "The era of great expansion has come to an end, and maintaining the current supply of wild fish sustainably is not possible.
"The sooner we come to grips with it – similar to how society has recognized the effects of climate change – the sooner we can stop the downward spiral by creating stricter fisheries regulations and more marine reserves."
"The decline of spatial expansion since the mid-1990s is not a reflection of successful conservation efforts but rather an indication that we've simply run out of room to expand fisheries," says Wilf Swartz, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia, Canada.
Daniel Pauly, of the Sea Around Us Project at the University of British Columbia and a co-author of the report, said: "While many people still view fisheries as a romantic, localized activity pursued by rugged individuals, the reality is that for decades now, numerous fisheries are corporate operations that take a mostly no-fish-left-behind approach to our oceans until there's nowhere left to go."
« Return to the news index
Be the first to comment on this story using the form below