With a growing number of fishing vessels in the oceans going after a dwindling fish population, it's an equation that won't last.
A new study by researchers from University of Tasmania and CSIRO in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal shows how the global fishing fleet has doubled over the last 65 years, but the catch sizes (based on the amount of effort expended) had dropped dramatically.
According to the study, the global fishing fleet grew from 1.7 million vessels in 1950 to 3.7 million in 2015. However, modern-day catch achieved per unit of effort was just 20 percent of what the 1950s fishing fleet achieved.
Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and Centre for Marine Socioecology PhD student Yannick Rousseau led the study. He sums up the situation: “What we have seen over the last 65 years are more and more fishing vessels chasing fewer fish.”
Moreover, much of the increase in vessel numbers is in the form of motorised fishing boats, as opposed to the unpowered fishing vessels traditionally used in Asian and African fishing fleets.
However, even with its advanced technology, the modern motorised fleets find themselves having to work harder, and for a smaller catch size.
Even though there had been more effective fisheries management and a sharp reduction in the size of the fishing fleet over the last decade in developed countries like Australia, Rousseau stresses that current worldwide trends foresee a further one million vessels by the mid-century, with increases in the average engine power of the global fleet.
"Our findings suggest that additional management measures are urgently warranted to ensure the future sustainability of global marine resources," he added.