Fishing Fleets Have Doubled Since The 1950’s While The Total Amount Of Fish Caught Have Gone Down

Photo by Anastasia Fomina on Unsplash

It is well known that overfishing of the oceans marine life is worse than ever and if drastic changes are not made soon, the oceans are in dire threat and that is backed up by a new global analysis on fishing.

The study found that the number of boats harvesting seafood has increased significantly since the 1950s while the total amount of fish caught has gone down significantly. On top of that, fishing ships motors are now larger than ever, allowing for them to expand their range and ability to bring more fish back from more areas.

The researchers warn that the trend of less total fish caught will only continue has fishing stocks are dipping lower and lower as the need to manage fish stocks grows.

For the new study, Yannnick Rousseau, a graduate fisheries ecologist student at the University of Tasmania In Hobart, Australia, gathered data from around 100 countries and examined local reports, national registries and scientific papers.

Rousseau’s research analyzed trends for three groups of vessels which included both motorized and unmotorized small-scale fishing boats and industrial fishing boats. Ships more than doubled to 3.7 million between 1950 and 2015, while ships in Asia quadrupled. Also important to note is that in the 1950s, roughly 20% of ships around the world had motors. By 2015, 68% of them had a motor.

Rousseau and his co-authors found that the combined engine power of small vessels equals that of the industrial fleet. “It was a very counterintuitive result,” Rousseau says, given the public and political attention attracted by large fishing vessels.

When comparing the larger fleet of ships to the smaller in the 1950s, the global fleet in today’s age catches only 20% as much fish for the same amount of effort. The catch per unit effort measurement is a key indicator of fish population size and important in managing fish stocks. The measurement has allowed for some countries around the world to help protect stocks as government regulators have tightened up fishing rules and regulations. While areas around the world such as North America, Western Europe, and Australia do have regulations set forth, Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, and Latin America do not and fish quality and stocks are abysmal.

As for the future, the researchers expect a million more fishing vessels to become motorized by 2050 as engine power will increase on others. As well, fleets of larger vessels will continue to move into territorial waters of other countries seeking out unfished waters making it nearly impossible to sustain fisheries.

To avoid total collapse, developing nations will need to ensure management of fish stocks if they are to sustain populations as well as the health of the ocean. The researchers hope that their work can help shed light on how large a problem is faced today and that countries across the globe can utilize their research to better sustain fish populations.

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