Fishing industry

The underlying threat to global fisheries is an ever- growing human population. Over half of global populations live within 200km of the coast. The most viable source of protein is from fishing coastal waters.

Group of tuna in the eastern chamber of the trap at Favignana. Depth 22 meters. Danilo Cedrone, 1999, courtesy of UN FAO.

A raised landing net brings the tuna to the surface near Favignana, Sicily. Photo courtesy of Danilo Cedrone, 1999, UN FAO.

World-wide, rising coastline populations are intensifying pressures on coastal fisheries and wetlands. World production of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals increased from 117 million tonnes in 1998 to 125 million tonnes in 1999. Capture fisheries production amounted to 92.3 million tonnes; 1.4 million tonnes below the record levels reached in 1996 and 1997 (1998 was a particularly low year and it is thought to be due to the climate anomaly, El Niño). This does not affect the slowdown in the rate of increase of marine catches for the last decade though. Also aquaculture increased by 2 million tonnes to reach 32.9 million tonnes in 1999. The Asian region (particularly China) continues to dominate world production.

All this fishing has resulted in the massive overharvesting problem that we are facing today. 11 of the world's 15 major fishing areas and 69% of the world's major fish species are in decline according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Sustainable fisheries management requires conservative limits on fishing to be set well below the biological level of maximum sustainable yield. Unfortunately populations may have been fished to the extent that even a total moratorium on fishing of some species would still mean that fishing sustainably would not be possible, in some cases, for decades to come. There has been an Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua, fishing moratorium imposed off the Atlantic coast of Canada since the population crashed in 1992. By 1998 there was still no sign of their numbers recovering.

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