Palomares and Pauly reflect on the challenges and opportunities of historical reconstructions of marine fisheries catches

Fishing spheres. Photo by Psyberartist, Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

Fishing spheres. Photo by Psyberartist, Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

The Sea Around Us’ Project Manager, Deng Palomares, and Principal Investigator, Daniel Pauly, published an editorial in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science highlighting the importance of a long-term perspective when evaluating the status of fisheries.

This is because properly managed fisheries are supposed to generate reasonably high catches over long periods. If increased fishing effort results in nets that come back a little bit emptier each time, more likely than not, there is an overexploitation problem.

To be able to notice the changing catches over time, the key is to have a baseline that allows for comparisons between the past and the present. In their account, Palomares and Pauly explain that the Sea Around Us chose 1950 as the start-year for its catch reconstructions as a compromise based on the availability of public data.

That was also the year when the re-industrialization of the fisheries in richer countries had just begun or the first signs of industrialization were emerging in developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. “Also, the catches from the early 1950s offered a stark contrast to the later growth of fisheries in the global south,” the researchers write.

Palomares and Pauly cite papers published by former and current Sea Around Us members, which put in evidence the stark changes in effort vs. catches over time.

Cited papers are:

Reconstructed Russian Fisheries Catches in the Barents Sea: 1950-2014
• The Marine Fisheries in Bulgaria’s Exclusive Economic Zone, 1950–2013
An Improved Reconstruction of Total Marine Fisheries Catches for the New Hebrides and the Republic of Vanuatu, 1950–2014
Reconstructed Marine Fisheries Catches at a Remote Island Group: Pitcairn Islands (1950–2014)
Thailand’s Missing Marine Fisheries Catch (1950–2014)
• Conched Out: Total Reconstructed Fisheries Catches for the Turks and Caicos Islands Uncover Unsustainable Resource Usage
• Reconstruction of Domestic Marine Fisheries Catches for Oman (1950-2015)

To read the full editorial, follow this link.