By Neal Lineback, Mandy Lineback Gritzner
The world may be running out of places to catch wild fish. The rapid expansion of global fishing over the past 50 years to meet the demand for seafood has left wild fish stocks nearly depleted.
A group of scientists published an article in 2010 in the online journal PLoS ONE, which is part of the Public Library of Science, titled “The Spatial Expansion and Ecological Footprint of Fisheries (1950 to Present).” The article examines how marine fishing has expanded geographically over time. In the article, the authors map a global trend that until now has mostly been detailed only qualitatively. The results may be particularly valuable in saving some of the world’s most vulnerable species. Our map of those data is worth republishing here.
According to the article, prior to 1880 only sail-powered vessels were used for fishing. Subsequently, fishing was limited to areas directly offshore. When the British began using steam trawlers in 1880, modern industrial fishing vessels using fossil fuels were adopted.
As fishing fleets rapidly became more powerful, they quickly depleted fish populations close to shore. Trawler captains soon found it necessary to expand operations into the entire northeastern Atlantic. At the same time, similar situations were occurring off the coasts of New England and Japan.
While the fish stocks in these areas appeared to recover following World War I and World War II, at the same time fishing boats equipped with diesel engines were emerging. Many of those also had electronic-locating devices used to find more fish and refrigeration systems allowing the boats to stay longer at sea. More....