A conventional idea of a sustainable fishery is that it is one that is harvested at a sustainable rate, where the fish population does not decline over time because of fishing practices. Sustainability in fisheries combines theoretical disciplines, such as the population dynamics of fisheries, with practical strategies, such as avoiding overfishing through techniques such as individual fishing quotas, curtailing destructive and illegal fishing practices by lobbying for appropriate law and policy, setting up protected areas, restoring collapsed fisheries, incorporating all externalities involved in harvesting marine ecosystems into fishery economics, educating stakeholders and the wider public, and developing independent certification programs.
Some primary concerns around sustainability are that heavy fishing pressures, such as overexploitation and growth or recruitment overfishing, will result in the loss of significant potential yield; that stock structure will erode to the point where it loses diversity and resilience to environmental fluctuations; that ecosystems and their economic infrastructures will cycle between collapse and recovery; with each cycle less productive than its predecessor; and that changes will occur in the trophic balance (fishing down marine food webs).
Global wild fisheries are believed to have peaked and begun a decline, with valuable habitats, such as estuaries and coral reefs, in critical condition. Current aquaculture or farming of piscivorous fish, such as salmon, does not solve the problem because farmed piscivores are fed products from wild fish, such as forage fish. Salmon farming also has major negative impacts on wild salmon. Fish that occupy the higher trophic levels are less efficient sources of food energy.
Fishery ecosystems are an important subset of the wider marine environment. This article documents the views of fisheries scientists and marine conservationists about innovative approaches towards sustainable fisheries.
In his 1883 inaugural address to the International Fisheries Exhibition in London, Thomas Huxley asserted that overfishing or "permanent exhaustion" was scientifically impossible, and stated that probably "all the great sea fisheries are inexhaustible". In reality, by 1883 marine fisheries were already collapsing. The United States Fish Commission was established 12 years earlier for the purpose of finding why fisheries in New England were declining. At the time of Huxley's address, the Atlantic halibut fishery had already collapsed (and has never recovered).
Traditionally, fisheries management and the science underpinning it was distorted by its "narrow focus on target populations and the corresponding failure to account for ecosystem effects leading to declines of species abundance and diversity" and by perceiving the fishing industry as "the sole legitimate user, in effect the owner, of marine living resources." Historically, stock assessment scientists usually worked in government laboratories and considered their work to be providing services to the fishing industry. These scientists dismissed conservation issues and distanced themselves from the scientists and the science that raised the issues. This happened even as commercial fish stocks deteriorated, and even though many governments were signatories to binding conservation agreements.
Fisheries and aquaculture are, directly or indirectly, a source of livelihood for over 500 million people, mostly in developing countries.
Social sustainability can conflict with biodiversity. A fishery is socially sustainable if the fishery ecosystem maintains the ability to deliver products the society can use. Major species shifts within the ecosystem could be acceptable as long as the flow of such products continues. Humans have been operating such regimes for thousands of years, transforming many ecosystems, depleting or driving to extinction many species.
According to Hilborn, the "loss of some species, and indeed transformation of the ecosystem is not incompatible with sustainable harvests." For example, in recent years, barndoor skates have been caught as bycatch in the western Atlantic. Their numbers have severely declined and they will probably go extinct if these catch rates continue. Even if the barndoor skate goes extinct, changing the ecosystem, there could still be sustainable fishing of other commercial species.
At the Fourth World Fisheries Congress in 2004, Daniel Pauly asked, "How can fisheries science and conservation biology achieve a reconciliation?", then answered his own question, "By accepting each other’s essentials: that fishing should remain a viable occupation; and that aquatic ecosystems and their biodiversity are allowed to persist."
A relatively new concept is relationship farming. This is a way of operating farms so they restore the food chain in their area. Re-establishing a healthy food chain can result in the farm automatically filtering out impurities from feed water and air, feeding its own food chain, and additionally producing high net yields for harvesting. An example is the large cattle ranch Veta La Palma in southern Spain. Relationship farming was first made popular by Joel Salatin who created a 220 hectare relationship farm featured prominently in Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma (2006) and the documentary films, Food, Inc. and Fresh. The basic concept of relationship farming is to put effort into building a healthy food chain, and then the food chain does the hard work.
Overfishing can be sustainable. According to Hilborn, overfishing can be "a misallocation of societies' resources", but it does not necessarily threaten conservation or sustainability".
Overfishing is traditionally defined as harvesting so many fish that the yield is less than it would be if fishing were reduced. For example, Pacific salmon are usually managed by trying to determine how many spawning salmon, called the "escapement", are needed each generation to produce the maximum harvestable surplus. The optimum escapement is that needed to reach that surplus. If the escapement is half the optimum, then normal fishing looks like overfishing. But this is still sustainable fishing, which could continue indefinitely at its reduced stock numbers and yield. There is a wide range of escapement sizes that present no threat that the stock might collapse or that the stock structure might erode.
On the other hand, overfishing can precede severe stock depletion and fishery collapse. Hilborn points out that continuing to exert fishing pressure while production decreases, stock collapses and the fishery fails, is largely "the product of institutional failure."
Today over 70% of fish species are either fully exploited, overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. If overfishing does not decrease, it is predicted that stocks of all species currently commercially fished for will collapse by 2048.”
A Hubbert linearization (Hubbert curve) has been applied to the whaling industry, as well as charting the price of caviar, which depends on sturgeon stocks. Another example is North Sea cod. Comparing fisheries and mineral extraction tells us that human pressure on the environment is causing a wide range of resources to go through a Hubbert depletion cycle.
Nearly all the world’s continental shelves, and large areas of continental slopes, underwater ridges, and seamounts, have had heavy bottom trawls and dredges repeatedly dragged over their surfaces. For fifty years, governments and organizations, such as the Asian Development Bank, have encouraged the fishing industry to develop trawler fleets. Repeated bottom trawling and dredging literally flattens diversity in the benthic habitat, radically changing the associated communities.
Since 1950, 90 percent of 25 species of big predator fish have gone.
Rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification are radically altering aquatic ecosystems. Climate change is modifying fish distribution and the productivity of marine and freshwater species. This reduces sustainable catch levels across many habitats, puts pressure on resources needed for aquaculture, on the communities that depend on fisheries, and on the oceans' ability to capture and store carbon (biological pump). Sea level rise puts coastal fishing communities at risk, while changing rainfall patterns and water use impact on inland (freshwater) fisheries and aquaculture.
A recent survey of global ocean health concluded that all parts of the ocean have been impacted by human development and that 41 percent has been fouled with human polluted runoff, overfishing, and other abuses. Pollution is not easy to fix, because pollution sources are so dispersed, and are built into the economic systems we depend on.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) mapped the impacts of stressors such as climate change, pollution, exotic species, and over-exploitation of resources on the oceans. The report shows at least 75 percent of the world's key fishing grounds may be affected.
Large predator fish can contain significant amounts of mercury, a neurotoxin which can affect fetal development, memory, mental focus, and produce tremors.
Lakes are dependent on the inflow of water from its drainage basin. In some areas, aggressive irrigation has caused this inflow to decrease significantly, causing water depletion and a shrinking of the lake. The most notable example is the Aral Sea, formerly among the four largest lakes in the world, now only a tenth of its former surface area.
Fisheries management draws on fisheries science to enable sustainable exploitation. Modern fisheries management is often defined as mandatory rules based on concrete objectives and a mix of management techniques, enforced by a monitoring control and surveillance system.
According to marine ecologist Chris Frid, the fishing industry points to marine pollution and global warming as the causes of recent, unprecedented declines in fish populations. Frid counters that overfishing has also altered the way the ecosystem works. "Everybody would like to see the rebuilding of fish stocks and this can only be achieved if we understand all of the influences, human and natural, on fish dynamics.” He adds: “fish communities can be altered in a number of ways, for example they can decrease if particular-sized individuals of a species are targeted, as this affects predator and prey dynamics. Fishing, however, is not the sole cause of changes to marine life—pollution is another example....No one factor operates in isolation and components of the ecosystem respond differently to each individual factor."
The traditional approach to fisheries science and management has been to focus on a single species. This can be contrasted with the ecosystem-based approach. Ecosystem-based fishery concepts have been implemented in some regions. In a 2007 effort to "stimulate much needed discussion" and "clarify the essential components" of ecosystem-based fisheries science, a group of scientists offered the following ten commandments for ecosystem-based fisheries scientists
- Keep a perspective that is holistic, risk-adverse and adaptive.
- Maintain an “old growth” structure in fish populations, since big, old and fat female fish have been shown to be the best spawners, but are also susceptible to overfishing.
- Characterize and maintain the natural spatial structure of fish stocks, so that management boundaries match natural boundaries in the sea.
- Monitor and maintain seafloor habitats to make sure fish have food and shelter.
- Maintain resilient ecosystems that are able to withstand occasional shocks.
- Identify and maintain critical food-web connections, including predators and forage species.
- Adapt to ecosystem changes through time, both short-term and on longer cycles of decades or centuries, including global climate change.
- Account for evolutionary changes caused by fishing, which tends to remove large, older fish.
- Include the actions of humans and their social and economic systems in all ecological equations.
Strategies and techniques for marine conservation tend to combine theoretical disciplines, such as population biology, with practical conservation strategies, such as setting up protected areas, as with Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas. Each nation defines MPAs independently, but they commonly involve increased protection for the area from fishing and other threats.
Marine life is not evenly distributed in the oceans. Most of the really valuable ecosystems are in relatively shallow coastal waters, above or near the continental shelf, where the sunlit waters are often nutrient rich from land runoff or upwellings at the continental edge, allowing photosynthesis, which energizes the lowest trophic levels. In the 1970s, for reasons more to do with oil drilling than with fishing, the U.S. extended its jurisdiction, then 12 miles from the coast, to 200 miles. This made huge shelf areas part of its territory. Other nations followed, extending national control to what became known as the exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This move has had many implications for fisheries conservation, since it means that most of the most productive maritime ecosystems are now under national jurisdictions, opening possibilities for protecting these ecosystems by passing appropriate laws.
Daniel Pauly characterises marine protected areas as "a conservation tool of revolutionary importance that is being incorporated into the fisheries mainstream." The Pew Charitable Trusts have funded various initiatives aimed at encouraging the development of MPAs and other ocean conservation measures.
There exists concerns that farmed fish cannot produce necessary yields efficiently. For example, farmed salmon eat three pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of salmon.
International laws and treaties related to marine conservation include the 1966 Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas. United States laws related to marine conservation include the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as the 1972 Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act which established the National Marine Sanctuaries program. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
Various organizations promote sustainable fishing strategies, educate the public and stakeholders, and lobby for conservation law and policy. The list includes the Marine Conservation Biology Institute and Blue Frontier Campaign in the U.S., The U.K.'s Frontier (the Society for Environmental Exploration) and Marine Conservation Society, Australian Marine Conservation Society, International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), Langkawi Declaration, Oceana, PROFISH, and the Sea Around Us Project, International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers, Frozen at Sea Fillets Association and CEDO.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals include, as goal #7: target 2, the intention to "reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss", including improving fisheries management to reduce depletion of fish stocks.
Other organizations offer advice to members of the public who eat with an eye to sustainability. According to the marine conservation biologist Callum Roberts, four criteria apply when choosing seafood:
- Is the species in trouble in the wild where the animals were caught?
- Does fishing for the species damage ocean habitats?
- Is there a large amount of bycatch taken with the target species?
- Does the fishery have a problem with discards—generally, undersized animals caught and thrown away because their market value is low?
The following organizations have download links for wallet-sized cards, listing good and bad choices:
One of the major impediments to the rational control of marine resources is inadequate data. According to fisheries scientist Milo Adkison (2007), the primary limitation in fisheries management decisions is poor data. Fisheries management decisions are often based on population models, but the models need quality data to be accurate. Scientists and fishery managers would be better served with simpler models and improved data.
Shifting baselines is the way significant changes to a system are measured against previous baselines, which themselves may represent significant changes from the original state of the system. The term was first used by the fisheries scientist Daniel Pauly in his paper "Anecdotes and the shifting baseline syndrome of fisheries". Pauly developed the term in reference to fisheries management where fisheries scientists sometimes fail to identify the correct "baseline" population size (e.g. how abundant a fish species population was before human exploitation) and thus work with a shifted baseline. He describes the way that radically depleted fisheries were evaluated by experts who used the state of the fishery at the start of their careers as the baseline, rather than the fishery in its untouched state. Areas that swarmed with a particular species hundreds of years ago, may have experienced long term decline, but it is the level of decades previously that is considered the appropriate reference point for current populations. In this way large declines in ecosystems or species over long periods of time were, and are, masked. There is a loss of perception of change that occurs when each generation redefines what is "natural".
Looting the seas is the name given by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to a series of journalistic investigations into areas directly affecting the sustainability of fisheries. So far they have investigated three areas involving fraud, negligence and overfishing:
The focus of sustainable fishing is often on the fish. Other factors are sometimes included in the broader question of sustainability. The use of non-renewable resources is not fully sustainable. This might include diesel fuel for the fishing ships and boats: there is even a debate about the long term sustainability of biofuels. Modern fishing nets are usually made of artificial polyamides like nylon. Synthetic braided ropes are generally made from nylon, polyester, polypropylene or high performance fibers such as high modulus polyethylene (HMPE) and aramid.
Energy and resources are employed in fish processing, refrigeration, packaging, logistics, etc. The methodologies of Life-cycle assessment are useful to evaluate the sustainability of components and systems. These are part of the broad question of sustainability.
American Seafoods Company is one of the largest seafood companies in North America and one of the largest harvesters of fish in the world. Based in Seattle, Washington, ASC owns and operates six large catcher-processor vessels that harvest and process on board fish caught in the U.S. waters of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. The company is well known for its products made from Alaska pollock, Pacific (whiting) hake, Yellowfin sole, and Pacific cod. These products are sold throughout North & South America, Asia and Europe. American Seafoods Company is the largest harvester in the U.S. Bering Sea Alaska Pollock fishery with approximately 45% of the catcher-processor market share.
American Seafoods Company is owned by American Seafoods Group Consolidated, LLC. Senior leaders of American Seafoods Group include, Mikel Durham, CEO; Kevin McMenimen, CFO; Margery Schelling, Executive Vice President of Marketing, Strategy & Innovation; Scott McNair, Executive Vice President of Product and Business Development. Inge Andreassen is President of American Seafoods Company, a subsidiary of American Seafoods Group.Declawing of crabs
Declawing of crabs is the process whereby one or both claws of a live crab (including king crabs) are manually pulled off and the animal is then returned to the water. It occurs in several fisheries worldwide, such as in the Florida stone crab (Menippe mercenaria) fishery, the north-east Atlantic deep-water red crab (Chaceon affinis) fishery and in southern Iberia, where the major claws of the fiddler crab Uca tangeri are harvested. Around Northern Europe, an extensive fishery exists for claws of the edible crab (Cancer pagurus). The practice is defended because some crabs can naturally autotomise (shed) limbs and then about a year later after a series of moults, regenerate these limbs. It is argued that declawing therefore provides a sustainable fishery. Claw removal is also promoted to assist in handling of animals, and to decrease losses through entanglement in fishing nets and cannibalism. Declawing crabs is legal in the UK since revocation in 2000 of the Crab Claws (Prohibition of Landing) Order 1986. One crab that is subject to widespread declawing is the Florida stone crab, for which tourist information is provided.Earth Summit 2002
The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), or the ONG Earth Summit 2002, took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September 2002. It was convened to discuss sustainable development by the United Nations. WSSD gathered a number of leaders from business and non-governmental organizations, 10 years after the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. (It was therefore also informally nicknamed "Rio+10".)Energy descent
Energy descent is the post-peak oil transitional phase, when humankind is predicted to move from the ascending use of energy that has occurred since the industrial revolution to a descending use of energy.Fishery Survey of India
The Fishery Survey of India (FiSI), founded in 1983 by the Government of India's Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, for the fisheries studies, research and survey of the traditional and deep sea fisheries of India within India's Exclusive economic zone, is tasked with the preparation of an annual Fishery Resources Survey and "Assessment and Research Programme" for the sustainable fishery requirements of traditional fishermen, small and medium boat operators and industrial fleet of deep-sea longlining tuna fishing.FiSI (fisheries) is one of the key national survey organisations of India, along with theASI (archaeology), BSI (botany), FSI (forests), GSI (geology), IIEE (ecology), NIO (oceanography), RGCCI (population survey) and language survey), SI (cartography) and ZSI (zoology).Geopark
A geopark is a unified area that advances the protection and use of geological heritage in a sustainable way, and promotes the economic well-being of the people who live there. There are global geoparks and national geoparks.Marine Stewardship Council
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an independent non-profit organization which sets a standard for sustainable fishing. Fisheries that wish to demonstrate they are well-managed and sustainable compared to the science-based MSC standard are assessed by a team of experts who are independent of both the fishery and the MSC. Seafood products can display the blue MSC ecolabel only if that seafood can be traced back through the supply chain to a fishery that has been certified against the MSC standard.The mission of the MSC is to use its ecolabel, for which the MSC receives royalties for licensing it to products, and fishery certification program to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognizing and rewarding sustainable fishing practices, influencing the choices people make when buying seafood, and working with partners to transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis. Another organisation, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, promotes and certifies sustainable aquaculture.Ocean Outcomes
Ocean Outcomes (O2) is an international nonprofit organization which works with commercial fisheries, seafood industry, local communities, government, NGOs, and other fishery stakeholders to develop and implement solutions towards more sustainable fisheries. O2's work includes fishery assessments, fishery improvement projects (FIPs), buyer engagement programs, supply chain analysis, and other contractual fishery-related work. Founded in 2015, O2 has team members and fishery projects across Northeast Asia, including on the ground operations in China, Japan, and South Korea.Our Common Future
Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report in recognition of former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland's role as Chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), was published in 1987 by the United Nations through the Oxford University Press.
Its targets were multilateralism and interdependence of nations in the search for a sustainable development path. The report sought to recapture the spirit of the Stockholm Conference which had introduced environmental concerns to the formal political development sphere. Our Common Future placed environmental issues firmly on the political agenda; it aimed to discuss the environment and development as one single issue.
The document was the culmination of a “900-day” international-exercise which catalogued, analysed, and synthesised: written submissions and expert testimony from “senior government representatives, scientists and experts, research institutes, industrialists, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and the general public” held at public hearings throughout the world.Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum
The Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) is a non-governmental organisation based in Karachi, Pakistan which works to advance social, economic, cultural and political rights of fishermen and fishing communities in Pakistan. The body came into establishment as a social welfare organisation on 5 May 1998. Since its inception, it has gathered 25,000 volunteers; the stated objectives of the group target a wide array of issues which are directly or indirectly associated with about 4 million fishers in Pakistan. Some of these are:
Socioeconomic and political rights of fishermen
Bringing sustainable fishery policies
Advocating a ban on sea trawlers
Stopping depletion of natural resources in the sea and the use of destructive nets
Preserving the Indus Delta from degradation
Abolishing contract systems and bringing license systems in inland water bodies
Supporting the release and rehabilitation of detained Pakistani fishers in Indian jails and Indian fishers in Pakistani jails
Bringing general sustainability in the usage of water resourcesPecten novaezelandiae
Pecten novaezelandiae, common name the New Zealand scallop, is a bivalve mollusc of the family Pectinidae, the scallops. Its name is sometimes found misspelt as Pecten novaezealandiae.Resource consumption
Resource consumption is about the consumption of non-renewable, or less often, renewable resources. Specifically, it may refer to:
electric energy consumption
world energy consumption
natural gas consumption/gas depletion
oil consumption/oil depletion
land use/land loss or
resource depletion and
general exploitation and associated environmental degradationMeasures of resource consumption are resource intensity and resource efficiency. Industrialization and globalized markets have increased the tendency for overconsumption of resources. The resource consumption rate of a nation does not usually correspond with the primary resource availability, this is called resource curse.
Unsustainable consumption by the steadily growing human population may lead to resource depletion and a shrinking of the earth's carrying capacity.Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, often shortened to Rio Declaration, was a short document produced at the 1992 United Nations "Conference on Environment and Development" (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit. The Rio Declaration consisted of 27 principles intended to guide countries in future sustainable development. It was signed by over 170 countries.Stewardship
Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. The concepts of stewardship can be applied to the environment and nature, economics, health, property, information, theology, etc.Sustainability reporting
A sustainability report is an organizational report that gives information about economic, environmental, social and governance performance.Sustainability reporting is not just report generation from collected data; instead it is a method to internalize and improve an organization’s commitment to sustainable development in a way that can be demonstrated to both internal and external stakeholders.Sustainable furniture design
Sustainable/ Industrial/ Recycled furniture design is an effort to address the environmental impact of furniture products on the environment by considering all aspects of the design and manufacturing process. Design considerations can include using recycled materials in the manufacturing process and using products that can be disassembled and recycled after their useful life. Sustainable furniture design strives to create a closed-loop cycle in which materials and products are perpetually recycled so as to avoid disposal in landfills. The Think Chair by Steelcase is a recent example of sustainable furniture design.Sustainable industries
The phrase sustainable industries is related to the development of industrial processes in a sustainable way.United Nations Millennium Declaration
On 8 September 2000, following a three-day Millennium Summit of world leaders gathered in New York at the headquarters of the United Nations, the UN General Assembly
adopted some 60 goals regarding peace; development; environment; human rights; the vulnerable, hungry, and poor; Africa; and the United Nations which is called Millennium Declaration (Resolution 55/2). A follow-up outcome of the resolution was passed by the General Assembly on 14 December 2000 to guide its implementation. Progress on implementation of the Declaration was reviewed at the 2005 World Summit of leaders. The Declaration includes 8 chapters and 32 paragraphs.Well smack
A well smack was a type of traditional fishing boat in use between the late 18th century and around 1920. It had a well amidships. The well was filled with circulated external water, which kept fish alive until delivered to land and sold. It was a modified form of a fishing smack.