Marine Fisheries

As stated in Chapter 14, most of the world’s wild fish stock harvest is stagnant or declining. The global harvest captured in the oceans and inland waters has peaked in 2000 at 96 million tons and subsequently fallen to 90 million tons in 2003, remaining at that level until 2009.

Fisheries, like rangelands discussed in Chapter 10, can be conceptualised in terms of a range of possible carrying capacities and sustainable yields, depending on the objectives. If preservation is desired, for example of the world’s whale stocks, an ecological carrying capacity can be sought; it is also possible to maximise the production of high quality sport fish, or of small ‘industrial’ fish. The recent history of the world’s marine fisheries has been an accelerating trend towards industrial fishing, harvesting smaller and smaller fish, not for direct human consumption but for feed. 20 per cent of world production now consists of small pelagic species used for making fishmeal which, in turn, is used in pig and poultry production and in salmon and shrimp aquaculture.

Despite the apparent stability of the oceans, their fish and other populations are as much subject to fluctuation as are rangeland cattle. One of the most productive fisheries in the world, providing 20 per cent of the world’s fish landings in the 1960s and 1970s, is generated by upwellings of cold, nutrient rich waters off the coast of Chile and Peru. [Read more…]