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Can Marine Fishery Resources be Increased?

17 April 2012

GLOBAL - The total production of marine fishery resources has declined gradually after reaching a peak in landings in 1996. The world’s fisheries and aquaculture sectors have gone through a dramatic development in the last 60 years with large increases in production: total world fish production was only 19.3 million tonnes in 1950 and by 2009 reached 163 million tonnes.

Marine fisheries are very important to the economy and well-being of coastal communities, providing food security, job opportunities, income and livelihoods as well as traditional cultural identity. Maintaining the long-term prosperity and sustainability of marine fisheries is not only of political and social significance but also of economic and ecological importance.

FAO has just published the Review of the state of world marine fishery resources, a comprehensive, objective and global review of the state of the living marine resources of the oceans. It is based mainly on official catch statistics up until 2009 and relevant stock assessment and other complementary information available until 2010.

The document summarises the information available for each FAO Statistical Area; discusses the major trends and changes that have occurred with the main ?shery resources exploited in each area; and reviews the stock assessment work undertaken in support of ?sheries management in each region.

With marine fishery resources depleting, FAO asks whether it is possible to increase global fishery production any further?

One way in which yields could be increased is to rebuild the 30 per cent overfished stocks so that they can produce close to their MSY. This should lead to a net increase in landings. However, it is difficult to estimate the extent of this increase because it is not only related to the current abundance of overfished stocks but also depends on the biological and technical interactions between species.

Nevertheless, the top ten demersal species have 43 per cent of stocks overfished. As a result, their 2009 production was only 51 per cent of their peak level. This may give some indication of the scale of catch loss caused by overfishing. However, better estimates of the lost production will require a combination of stock assessments and ecosystem modelling.

A second approach for increasing global production would be to intensify exploitation of the non-fully exploited stocks (13 per cent of the monitored stocks). To avoid the same pattern of overfishing that has been experienced with other species in the past, any attempt to intensify exploitation on non-fully exploited stocks should be accompanied by precautionary management plans.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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