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Nature = Food

Part 2: Fisheries
• The marine environment has been described as the last
frontier on the planet
• Let us, for the sake of our discussion, assume the above
statement is true
• Many scientists argue that we are harvesting marine
fishes at a rate that greatly exceeds their rate of
• Precautionary Principle – where there are threats of
serious or irreversible damage, lack of scientific certainty
should not be used as a reason for failing to take
measures to prevent potential damage
• General locations of fishing
– Inland
– Marine
• Source of fish
– Aquaculture – literally fish farming
– Capture – one of variety of “fishing” methods
• By-catch – “Total fishing mortality excluding that
accounted directly by the retained catch of target
– Depending on the fishing locality, the ratio of by-catch
to target species can range from 3:1 to 14:1 (in
– By-catch roughly averages 30% of global landings
Trends in fish production
• Capture fisheries and aquaculture provided the world
117 million tons of food in 2004
– Approximate per capita amount of food fish was 16.6
kg (roughly 36 pounds per person)
– Largest amount on record
• Fish account for roughly 20% of the protein consumed
by humans
Trends in fish production
• Also during 2004, a grand total of 155 million tons were
harvested for all uses (human consumption, fish food,
oils and other)
– 40 million tons from inland sources
– 104 million tons from marine sources
– This total represents a total 12 million ton increase
over one year!
– 50 year fisheries trend diagram
– 50 year fisheries and population trends diagram
A world of consumers
• China is the largest harvester of fish
– Fishing nations diagram
– Per capita consumption in China is estimate at 56
– Chinese statistics are notoriously wrong and viewed
by the international community with skepticism
• In keeping with the Chinese predominance in fisheries
landings, the several Pacific regions top the list of
principal fishing regions
– Fisheries region diagram
Where do those fish go?
• The destination of the fished species is mixed
• Some of the species are high value species (i.e., the
tunas) while others (i.e., mackerals, herrings, Peruvian
anchoveta) are low value and are used to make fish
meal for agriculture (to be fed to chickens and pigs plus
as plant fertilizer) and aquaculture
– Top Ten Species Diagram
• Some species get new names to increase appeal
– Formerly – Patagonian Toothfish, Currently – Chilean
– Formerly – Slimeheads, Currently – Orange roughy
• Profound lack of understanding about the life cycles of
most of the open ocean fish
– Many have long lifespans and late reproductive
phases (i.e., Patagonian toothfish)
A History of Decline
• Historically, the Cod has been a fish that shaped nations
and exploration
– Very important in the history of many countries
including Spain, Canada, and Iceland
– The search for cod led to exploration of the North
• Cod was continuously fished in the North Atlantic for
over 500 years
• Cod was fished with increasing intensity in the 1960s
• The cod populations in the North Atlantic crashed (and
the fishery along with it) in 1992
– Diagram of decline
What happens when they are gone?
• Species replacement occurs when one or more species
are overfished/overharvested
• The niche does not remain empty for long before another
species (or multiple species) takes up part or all of the
• In Newfoundland, the cod was replaced by shellfish
• In Georgia, the cannonball jellyfish is replacing missing
species of former larget species
• As the target species abundance declines, fishing down
the food web occurs; the average trophic level of target
species declines (ex. in Georgia from higher trophic level
fish to lower trophic level cannonball jellyfish)
– Fishing down the food web diagram
The crime of by-catch
• By-catch accounts for roughly 30% of global landings
• Included in this % are: dolphins, sea turtles, sharks,
• By-catch is typically thrown overboard and therefore
• The non-target species are damaged by hooks and/or
drowned by being underwater too long
• To reduce by-catch without reducing the yield of the
target, industry and government groups have created
and deployed a number of devices to reduce by-catch:
– Turtle Excluder Device (TED) – UGA researchers
were instrumental in construction
– Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD) – variety of styles,
designed to allow non-target species to leave net
• United Nations International Law of the Sea
– Covered many aspects of ocean law, most relevant
was the extension of national waters to 200 miles
(from 12 miles)
– Removed fish from the international commons and
placed them under the jurisdiction of nations
– Never ratified by US in its entirety
• Magnuson Act of 1976
– Enacted the 200 mile limit as US Federal Law
– 200 mile zone known as the Exclusive Economic
Zone (EEZ)
– Amended in 1996 as Magnuson-Stevens Act, which
added requirements to rebuilt/restore damaged
fisheries and the formation of regional fisheries
management councils
– Reauthorized in 2006 adding ecosystem approaches
to management
Sustainable fishing
• Ways to sustainably harvest fish:
– Reduce habitat damage (more delicate fishing
– Reduce by-catch quantity/percentage
– Don’t feed wild caught species to aquaculture
– Understand population dynamics of target species
– Purchase and consume fish that are sustainably
• A number of groups are banding together to emphasize
use of sustainably harvested fish
– Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch
– Environmental Defense Sustainable Fishing and Seafood
World Fisheries Trends
Fish Utilization Trends
Top Ten Producers
Top Capture Fisheries Areas
“The Marine Most Wanted”
The Cod Collapse
Fishing Down the Food Web
The Fate of
TED in action
TED and BRD in action