The total world catch from marine and freshwater wild stocks has peaked and may be slightly declining. There appear to be few significant resources to be developed, and the majority of the world's fish stocks are intensively exploited. Many marine ecosystems have been profoundly changed by fishing and other human activities. Although most of the world's major fisheries continue to produce substantial sustainable yield, a number have been severely overfished, and many more stocks appear to be heading toward depletion. The world's fisheries continue to be heavily subsidized, which encourages overfishing and provides society with a small fraction of the potential economic benefits. In most of the world's fisheries there is a “race for fish” in which boats compete to catch the fish before a quota is achieved or the fish are caught by someone else. The race for fish leads to economic inefficiency, poor quality product, and pressure to extract every fish for short-term gain. A number of countries have instituted alternative management practices that eliminate the race for fish and encourage economic efficiency, use lower exploitation rates that deliberately do not attempt to maximize biological yield, and encourage reduced fishing costs and increased value of products. In fisheries where this transition has taken place, we see the potential for future sustainability, but in those fisheries where the race for fish continues, we anticipate further declines in abundance, further loss of jobs and fishing communities, and potential structural change to marine ecosystems.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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