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In 2004, world fishing fleet numbered an estimated 4 million vessels, comprising about 1.3 million decked vessels of various types, tonnage and power and about 2.7 million undecked vessels. While virtually almost all decked vessels are motorized, only about one third of the undecked fishing boats are powered, generally with out-board engines. The remaining two-thirds were traditional craft of various types operated by sails and oars. The above figures are only an indicative measure of the fishing capacity. The total tonnage and total power of world fishing fleets are not available on a global basis.
Most of the world's decked vessels operate in Asia (86 percent), followed by Europe accounted for (7.8 percent), North and Central America (3.8 percent), Africa (1.3 percent), South America (0.6 percent) and Oceania (0.4 percent).
|After the expansion of the world fleet until the late 1980s, in the past two decades, many countries have adopted policies for limiting the growth of national fishing capacity or to reduce it in order to protect the fishery resources and to make fishing economically viable for the harvesting enterprises. There are indications that the size of fleet of decked fishing vessels of long-standing developed fishing nations (including Denmark, Iceland, Japan, Norway, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, Argentina and Chile) has continued to decrease, especially those operating off-shore and in distant waters. However, even in these countries, the rate of reduction of fishing power is generally less significant than the rate of reduction of fishing vessels. On the other hand, some countries, including the Philippines, Indonesia and the United States, other South American countries, report a continuing expansion of their fleets. Overall, the number of fishing vessels world-wide has not changed significantly in recent years. |
European Union and other selected countries fleets
The European Union (15 members) fishing fleet continued to decrease from 100 085 vessels in 1995 to nearly 96 000 in 2000. Between 2000 and 2005 the number of fishing vessels of EU-15 decreased by 14 percent in number, 5 percent in gross tonnage and 7 percent in main engine power. In 2005, more than 81 percent of the EU-15 fleet consisted of small vessels measuring less than 12 metres in length, an unknown number of which is undecked. The majority of the small vessels belong to Greece, Spain, Italy (and operate in Mediterranean waters) and Portugal. In addition, some 14 percent of the vessels measured between 12 and 24 metres, 4 percent had a length of above 24 and 45 meters, and 311 vessels measured more than 45 metres (42 vessels less than in 2000). The largest part of the vessels measuring 60 meters and above is concentrated in Spain, France and United Kingdom.
The number of vessels in the UK fishing fleet has decrease by over 30 percent since 1991, with total engine power having declined by around 20 percent. In Denmark capacity reduction measures put in place to match catching opportunities resulted in 507 vessels decommissioned since 1996, with capacity reduction subsidies. This represents a decrease in tonnage of 18 975 tonnes and 75 744 kw of engine power. These trends described above are the effect of the EU fleet policy, in operation since 1983 and reviewed in 2003, following which revision the Multi Annual Guidance Program system (MAGPs) was replaced by an Entry:Exit regime. The aim of the regime is to prevent the creation of new fishing capacity, ensuring that any new vessel must obtain a license to fish from existing fishing vessels. Following the accession of ten new member countries in May 2004, the fishing fleet of the European Union has acquired about 6 000 additional vessels and boats, 80 percent of which small boats below 12 meters in length.
In December 2004 Norway had a fleet of 6 739 engine-drive decked fishing vessels (20 percent less since 1995) and 1 445 open registered vessels (one fourth of the number operating in 1995). At the end of 2005, the Icelandic fleet had 1 752 vessels on register, 50 percent of which were undecked; this implies 60 units less than in 2004, all belonging to the un-decked type. The Icelandic fleet is fairly old. In 2004, 42 percent of the decked vessels and trawlers combined were more than 20 years of age, while 16 percent were less than 5 years old. In New Zealand, the number of domestic commercial fishing vessels numbered 1 741 at the end of September 2004, and these were complemented by 38 foreign chartered vessels. The number of registered commercial vessels has continued to decrease in the past decade at a rate of some 100 units per year. Between 1993 and 2003, there were 1 141 domestic vessels less in operation. Since 2000 there are no foreign licensed vessels operating in New Zealand’s EEZ. In 2000, there was the introduction of the quota management system, so with national control of the country’s fishery resources.
As highlighted by the results of the 2003 Fishery Census, in Japan there was a further decrease in the number of fishing vessels. Compared to the previous census held in 1998, the number of units in operation decreased by 10 percent (22 676 less units in operation, down to 213 808). In 2003 the census enumerated 114 925 vessels, for a combined gross tonnage of 926 095 tonnes and 7 586 807 kw of main engine power. All segments of the fishing fleet declined compared to 1998. About 80 percent of the Japanese fleet is below 5 gross tons. Nearly 90 percent of the inboard powered vessels operate in coastal fishing, and within their number 23 percent are engaged in marine aquaculture activities.
There have been suggestions that the recent rapid rise of fuel prices will change the economics of the fishing industry. Distant water fishing will be particularly affected. Most likely, fish carriers will be used in an attempt to cut overall fuel costs by reducing the time fishing vessels spend steaming to and from the fishing grounds. In the data-base of Lloyds’ Maritime Information Service the countries reporting more than 60 fish carriers are Panama, Russian Federation, Japan and China. Forty three fish carriers (6 percent of total) were identified as “unknown” flag, among which 50 percent previously were recorded as flying the flag of Belize or Russian Federation.
The Lloyd's database covers vessels over 100 gross registered tonnes (GRT). Vessels over 100 GRT are the most likely to operate internationally through access agreements and on the high seas, but, of course, representing only a small proportion of the global fishing fleet. Nevertheless, monitoring the over100 GRT fleet gives an indication of the changing shape of large-scale industrial fishing. It provides indications of the patterns of change in entries to, and exits from, all Shipping registers, particularly in open registers. The trends are: decreases in the numbers of vessels in the fishing fleets of developed countries and increases in some developing countries. According to the Lloyd's database, the average age of the global fishing fleet above 100 GT continues to increase with a relatively small numbers of vessels being built in recent years.
Lloyd’s data also indicate that in some countries, when a vessel is replaced, the old one is exported. As a result in these countries fishing fleets generally are composed of vessels with a relatively low age. This group of countries includes Japan, Norway and Spain.
The Lloyds’s database also contains data about where a fishing vessel was built. Most of the major fishing nations also have major shipbuilding industries that supply their fishing vessels to local and foreign fishing companies. Japan, the USA, Spain, Russian Federation, and Peru, all of which are prominent ship builders, built more than 60 percent of fishing vessels above 100 GT currently in operation. Most fishing vessels (78 percent) in operation at the end of 2005 have not changed flag since being launched, and more than two thirds of them were built in the country where they are registered. In Japan, the USA, Spain, Peru and Poland domestic ship builders have supplied over 90 percent of the national fishing fleets. Open registers, by definition, offer flag state status to almost any ship and are often seen by vessel owners as a mean to avoid controls to which they might otherwise be subject. The number of vessels that are known to exist but for which the flag is unknown is also a cause for concern, although some of these vessels might have been removed from the register before being scrapped. Important advances have been made by several1 regional fisheries organisations by establishing ‘positive' (authorized to fish in the area of the RFO's jurisdiction) and ‘negative' (unauthorized, or ‘non-cooperating' vessels) lists of vessels with a view to improving monitoring and control of fisheries on the high seas and for transboundary stocks. Other2 RFOs are in various stages of establishing such lists and some countries and NGOs have initiated lists of vessels reported to be engaged in unauthorised fishing.
The High Seas Vessels Authorization Record (HSVAR) database is maintained by FAO. It contains the required information on vessels authorized to fish on the high seas.Work in progress3 strongly suggests overcapacity in the world's industrial tuna fishing fleets. A moratorium on construction has been considered in conjunction with development of mechanisms for smooth transfer of capacity from distant water fishing nations to coastal developing states.
The FAO database on world fishery fleet is disseminated as a trilingual FAO Bulletin of Fishery Statistics-Fishery Fleet that covers annual data on the national fishery fleet statistics, by number, size of vessel, power and length classes.
1These include: CCAMLR, FFA, ICCAT, IOTC, IATTC, NAFO and NEAFC.
2 Subregional Fisheries Commission (West Africa), Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Commission for the Conservation of the Southern Bluefin Tuna.
3 Management of Tuna Fishing Capacity: Conservation and Socio-Economics. FAO Project GCP/INT/851/JPN