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A fishery (plural: fisheries) is an organized effort by humans to catch fish or other aquatic species, an activity known as fishing. Generally, a fishery exists for the purpose of providing human food, although other aims are possible (such as sport or recreational fishing, or obtaining ornamental fish or fish products such as fish oil. Industrial fisheries are fisheries where the catch is not intended for direct human consumption.

Fishing boat deck
with white hake, 1936
Regardless of purpose, however, the term fishery generally refers to a fishing effort centered on either a particular ecoregion or a particular species or type of fish or aquatic animal, and usually fisheries are differentiated by both criteria. An example would be the salmon fishery of Alaska or the tuna fishery of the Eastern Pacific. Most fisheries are marine, rather than freshwater; most marine fisheries are based near the coast. This is not only because harvesting from relatively shallow waters is easier than in the open ocean, but also because fish are much more abundant near the coastal shelf, due to coastal upwelling and the abundance of nutrients available there.

Table of contents
1 Fisheries historically
2 Fisheries in the present day
3 Methods
4 Fisheries and communities
5 Important global fisheries
6 Fisheries Science
7 Important issues and topics in fisheries
8 External Links – and for more information
9 References used
10 See also:

Fisheries historically

"Egyptians bringing in fish, and splitting for
Fisheries have been important parts of human life and food production throughout history. Fisheries have become a part of human cultures and mythologies, providing a community identity and a subject for artists throughout the ages. Partially, this is because fisheries are irretrievably wrapped up in humanity’s perpetual fascination with the sea, and partially, because they have been a major source of food and income for many communities throughout the ages.

Fisheries in the present day

Today, fisheries are estimated to provide 16% of the world population's protein, and that figure is considerably elevated in some developing nations and in regions that depend heavily on the sea. Fisheries are a huge global business and provide income for millions of people. Fisheries have been and continue to be culturally important for many communities as well.

According to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2000 (published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), in 1998, total world capture fisheries production was 86 million tons. The top producing countries were, in order, the People's Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan), Japan, the United States, Russia, Peru, Indonesia, Chile, and India. Those countries accounted for more than half of the world's production; China alone accounted for a third of the world's production. Of that production, over 90% was marine and less than 10% was inland.


The methodology used in fisheries varies based on the region, the species being fished for, and the amount of income and technology available to the fisher. A fishery can consist of a single person with a small boat hand-casting nets, to a huge fleet of trawlers processing tons of fish per day. Some common commercial techniques today are trawling, seining, driftnetting, longlining, and gillnetting.

Fisheries and communities

For some communities, both currently and historically, fisheries provide not only a source of food and work but also a community and cultural identity.

Salmon Fishery in Puget Sound,
WA., no date
This shows up in art, literature, and traditions. These communities are generally those that have been historically dependent on fishing as a source of income and food.

Important global fisheries

There are large and important fisheries worldwide for various species of fish, mollusks and crustaceans. However, a very small number of species support the majority of the world’s fisheries. Some of these species are herring, cod, anchovy, tuna, flounder, mullet, squid, shrimp, salmon, crab, lobster, oyster and scallops. All except these last four provided a worldwide catch of well over a million metric tons in 1999, with herring and sardines together providing a catch of over 22 million metric tons in 1999. Many other species as well are fished in smaller numbers, both locally and globally.

Fisheries Science

Fisheries science is the academic discipline of managing and understanding fisheries. It draws on the disciplines of biology, ecology, oceanography, and management to attempt to provide an integrated picture of fisheries. It is typically taught in a university setting, and can be the focus of an undergraduate, master's or Ph.D program. It is currently taught in universities worldwide, including several in the United States.

Important issues and topics in fisheries

Considering the importance of fisheries, and that they depend on a natural resource, it is no surprise that there are many pressing environmental issues surrounding them. These can be classed into issues that involve the availability of fish to be caught, such as overfishing, sustainable fisheries, and fishery management; and issues surrounding the impact of fishing on the environment, such by-catch. These fishery conservation issues are generally considered part of marine conservation, and many of these issues are addressed in fisheries science programs. They are also, however, controversial. There is an apparent and growing disparity between the availability of fish to be caught and humanity’s desire to catch them, a problem that is exacerbated by the rapidly growing worldwide population. As with some other environmental issues, often the people engaged in the activity of fishing – the fishers – and the scientists who study fisheries science, who are often acting as fishery managers, are in conflict with each other, as the dictates of economics mean that fishers have to keep fishing for their livelihood, but the dictates of sustainable science mean that some fisheries must close or reduce to protect the health of the population of the fish themselves. It is starting to be realized, however, that these two camps must work together to ensure fishery health through the 21st century and beyond.

External Links – and for more information

The literature on fisheries -- both scientific and popular -- is vast. The literature is subdivided into dozens of topics, from fishing gear design, to the impact of fish biology and oceanography on fisheries, to how to most effectively manage fisheries. Some good places to start are the websites of fisheries science departments and the catalogs of university library. Some well known journals about fisheries are Fisheries, Fisheries Oceanography, Fishery Bulletin, and The Canadian Journal of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. In addition, many countries have their own regional journals.

There are also many websites devoted to fisheries and fisheries science. Some good ones are:

References used

See also:

fish, aquaculture, hatcheries, marine conservation, marine ecosystem, agriculture, conservation, ecosystem, oceanography