Sustainability of deep-sea fisheries

Norse, Elliott A., Brooke, Sandra, Cheung, William W. L., Clark, Malcolm R., Ekeland, Ivar, Froese, Rainer, Gjerde, Kristina M., Haedrich, Richard L., Heppell, Selina S., Morato, Telmo, Morgan, Lance E., Pauly, Daniel, Sumaila, Rashid and Watson, Reg (2012) Sustainability of deep-sea fisheries Marine Policy, 36 (2). pp. 307-320. DOI 10.1016/j.marpol.2011.06.008.

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As coastal fisheries around the world have collapsed, industrial fishing has spread seaward and deeper in pursuit of the last economically attractive concentrations of fishable biomass. For a seafood-hungry world depending on the oceans' ecosystem services, it is crucial to know whether deep-sea fisheries can be sustainable.
The deep sea is by far the largest but least productive part of the oceans, although in very limited places fish biomass can be very high. Most deep-sea fishes have life histories giving them far less population resilience/productivity than shallow-water fishes, and could be fished sustainably only at very low catch rates if population resilience were the sole consideration. But like old-growth trees and great whales, their biomass makes them tempting targets while their low productivity creates strong economic incentive to liquidate their populations rather than exploiting them sustainably (Clark's Law). Many deep-sea fisheries use bottom trawls, which often have high impacts on nontarget fishes (e.g., sharks) and invertebrates (e.g., corals), and can often proceed only because they receive massive government subsidies. The combination of very low target population productivity, nonselective fishing gear, economics that favor population liquidation and a very weak regulatory regime makes deep-sea fisheries unsustainable with very few exceptions. Rather, deep-sea fisheries more closely resemble mining operations that serially eliminate fishable populations and move on.
Instead of mining fish from the least-suitable places on Earth, an ecologically and economically preferable strategy would be rebuilding and sustainably fishing resilient populations in the most suitable places, namely shallower and more productive marine ecosystems that are closer to markets.

► Industrial fishing has spread seaward and deeper in pursuit of wild fish biomass.
► Low productivity deep-sea fishes tempt fishermen to overexploit their populations.
► Azores hook-and-line black scabbardfish is a rare, apparently sustainable exception.
► Subsidies for trawling in poorly managed high seas areas incentivize overfishing.
► Recovering and fishing productive shelf fish populations is much more sustainable.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Ichthyology; Sustainability; Deep-sea fisheries; Fishery collapse; Fisheries economics; Clark's law; High seas
Research affiliation: OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence > FO-R03
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence > FO-R02
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB3 Marine Ecology > FB3-EV Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Fishes
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.marpol.2011.06.008
ISSN: 0308-597X
Related URLs:
Projects: Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2011 10:53
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2017 09:52

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