Salmon spawn in a salmon fishery within the Becharof Wilderness in Southwest Alaska.
% of fisheries exploited over time

Fishery can mean either the enterprise of raising or harvesting fish and other aquatic life[1] or, more commonly, the site where such enterprise takes place (a.k.a., fishing grounds).[2] Commercial fisheries include wild fisheries and fish farms, both in freshwater waterbodies (about 10% of all catch) and the oceans (about 90%). About 500 million people worldwide are economically dependent on fisheries. 171 million tonnes of fish were produced in 2016, but overfishing is an increasing problem, causing declines in some populations.

Because of their economic and social importance, fisheries are governed by complex fisheries management practices and legal regimes that vary widely across countries. Historically, fisheries were treated with a "first-come, first-served" approach, but recent threats from human overfishing and environmental issues have required increased regulation of fisheries to prevent conflict and increase profitable economic activity on the fishery. Modern jurisdiction over fisheries is often established by a mix of international treaties and local laws.

Declining fish populations, marine pollution, and the destruction of important coastal ecosystems have introduced increasing uncertainty in important fisheries worldwide, threatening economic security and food security in many parts of the world. These challenges are further complicated by the changes in the ocean caused by climate change, which may extend the range of some fisheries while dramatically reducing the sustainability of other fisheries.


According to the FAO, "...a fishery is an activity leading to harvesting of fish. It may involve capture of wild fish or raising of fish through aquaculture." It is typically defined in terms of the "people involved, species or type of fish, area of water or seabed, method of fishing, class of boats, purpose of the activities or a combination of the foregoing features".[3]

The definition often includes a combination of mammal and fish fishers in a region, the latter fishing for similar species with similar gear types.[4][5] Some government and private organizations, especially those focusing on recreational fishing include in their definitions not only the fishers, but the fish and habitats upon which the fish depend.[6]

The term fish

Further information: Fish § Terminology


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Fishermen in Sesimbra, Portugal

The fishing industry which harvests fish from fisheries can be divided into three main sectors: commercial, recreational or subsistence. They can be saltwater or freshwater, wild or farmed. Examples are the salmon fishery of Alaska, the cod fishery off the Lofoten islands, the tuna fishery of the Eastern Pacific, or the shrimp farm fisheries in China. Capture fisheries can be broadly classified as industrial scale, small-scale or artisanal, and recreational.

Close to 90% of the world's fishery catches come from oceans and seas, as opposed to inland waters. These marine catches have remained relatively stable since the mid-nineties (between 80 and 86 million tonnes).[10] 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 the abundance of nutrients available there from coastal upwelling and land runoff. However, productive wild fisheries also exist in open oceans, particularly by seamounts, and inland in lakes and rivers.

Most fisheries are wild fisheries, but farmed fisheries are increasing. Farming can occur in coastal areas, such as with oyster farms,[11] or the aquaculture of salmon, but more typically fish farming occurs inland, in lakes, ponds, tanks and other enclosures.

There are commercial fisheries worldwide for finfish, mollusks, crustaceans and echinoderms, and by extension, aquatic plants such as kelp. 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 tonnes in 1999, with herring and sardines together providing a harvest of over 22 million metric tons in 1999. Many other species are harvested in smaller numbers.

Economic importance

Directly or indirectly, the livelihood of over 500 million people in developing countries depends on fisheries and aquaculture. Overfishing, including the taking of fish beyond sustainable levels, is reducing fish stocks and employment in many world regions.[12][13] It was estimated in 2014 that global fisheries were adding US$270 billion a year to global GDP, but by full implementation of sustainable fishing, that figure could rise by as much as US$50 billion.[14]

In addition to commercial and subsistence fishing, recreational (sport) fishing is popular and economically important in many regions.[15]


Global capture fisheries and aquaculture production reported by FAO, 1990–2030

Further information: Fishing industry

Total fish production in 2016 reached an all-time high of 171 million tonnes, of which 88 percent was utilized for direct human consumption, thanks to relatively stable capture fisheries production, reduced wastage and continued aquaculture growth. This production resulted in a record-high per capita consumption of 20.3 kg in 2016.[16] Since 1961 the annual global growth in fish consumption has been twice as high as population growth. While annual growth of aquaculture has declined in recent years, significant double-digit growth is still recorded in some countries, particularly in Africa and Asia.[16]

FAO predicted in 2018 the following major trends for the period up to 2030:[16]


A signboard listing fishing regulations at Horton Creek, Arizona

The goal of fisheries management is to produce sustainable biological, environmental and socioeconomic benefits from renewable aquatic resources. Wild fisheries are classified as renewable when the organisms of interest (e.g., fish, shellfish, amphibians, reptiles and marine mammals) produce an annual biological surplus that with judicious management can be harvested without reducing future productivity.[17] Fishery management employs activities that protect fishery resources so sustainable exploitation is possible, drawing on fisheries science and possibly including the precautionary principle.

Modern fisheries management is often referred to as a governmental system of appropriate environmental management rules based on defined objectives and a mix of management means to implement the rules, which are put in place by a system of monitoring control and surveillance. An ecosystem approach to fisheries management has started to become a more relevant and practical way to manage fisheries.[18][19] According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are "no clear and generally accepted definitions of fisheries management".[20] However, the working definition used by the FAO and much cited elsewhere is:

The integrated process of information gathering, analysis, planning, consultation, decision-making, allocation of resources and formulation and implementation, with necessary law enforcement to ensure environmental compliance, of regulations or rules which govern fisheries activities in order to ensure the continued productivity of the resources and the accomplishment of other fisheries objectives.[20]

Global goals

International attention to these issues has been captured in Sustainable Development Goal 14 "Life Below Water" which sets goals for international policy focused on preserving coastal ecosystems and supporting more sustainable economic practices for coastal communities, including in their fishery and aquaculture practices.[21]


Fishery on Lake Tondano, Indonesia

Fisheries law is an emerging and specialized area of law. Fisheries law is the study and analysis of different fisheries management approaches such as catch shares e.g. Individual Transferable Quotas; TURFs; and others. The study of fisheries law is important in order to craft policy guidelines that maximize sustainability and legal enforcement.[22] This specific legal area is rarely taught at law schools around the world, which leaves a vacuum of advocacy and research. Fisheries law also takes into account international treaties and industry norms in order to analyze fisheries management regulations.[23] In addition, fisheries law includes access to justice for small-scale fisheries and coastal and aboriginal communities and labor issues such as child labor laws, employment law, and family law.[24]

Another important area of research covered in fisheries law is seafood safety. Each country, or region, around the world has a varying degree of seafood safety standards and regulations. These regulations can contain a large diversity of fisheries management schemes including quota or catch share systems. It is important to study seafood safety regulations around the world in order to craft policy guidelines from countries who have implemented effective schemes. Also, this body of research can identify areas of improvement for countries who have not yet been able to master efficient and effective seafood safety regulations.

Fisheries law also includes the study of aquaculture laws and regulations. Aquaculture, also known as aquafarming, is the farming of aquatic organisms, such as fish and aquatic plants. This body of research also encompasses animal feed regulations and requirements. It is important to regulate what feed is consumed by fish in order to prevent risks to human health and safety.

Environmental issues

Greenhouse gas emissions (kg / kg edible weight) of wild-caught and farmed seafood products

The environmental impact of fishing includes issues such as the availability of fish, overfishing, fisheries, and fisheries management; as well as the impact of industrial fishing on other elements of the environment, such as bycatch.[25] These issues are part of marine conservation, and are addressed in fisheries science programs. According to a 2019 FAO report, global production of fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic animals has continued to grow and reached 172.6 million tonnes in 2017, with an increase of 4.1 percent compared with 2016.[26] There is a growing gap between the supply of fish and demand, due in part to world population growth.[27]

Fishing and pollution from fishing are the largest contributors to the decline in ocean health and water quality. Ghost nets, or nets abandoned in the ocean, are made of plastic and nylon and do not decompose, wreaking extreme havoc on the wildlife and ecosystems they interrupt. Overfishing and destruction of marine ecosystems may have a significant impact on other aspects of the environment such as seabird populations. On top of the overfishing, there is a seafood shortage resulting from the mass amounts of seafood waste, as well as the microplastics that are polluting the seafood consumed by the public. The latter is largely caused by plastic-made fishing gear like drift nets and longlining equipment that are wearing down by use, lost or thrown away.[28][29]

The journal Science published a four-year study in November 2006, which predicted that, at prevailing trends, the world would run out of wild-caught seafood in 2048. The scientists stated that the decline was a result of overfishing, pollution and other environmental factors that were reducing the population of fisheries at the same time as their ecosystems were being annihilated. Many countries, such as Tonga, the United States, Australia and Bahamas, and international management bodies have taken steps to appropriately manage marine resources.[30][31]

Reefs are also being destroyed by overfishing because of the huge nets that are dragged along the ocean floor while trawling. Many corals are being destroyed and, as a consequence, the ecological niche of many species is at stake.

Climate change

Fisheries are affected by climate change in many ways: marine aquatic ecosystems are being affected by rising ocean temperatures,[32] ocean acidification[33] and ocean deoxygenation, while freshwater ecosystems are being impacted by changes in water temperature, water flow, and fish habitat loss.[34] These effects vary in the context of each fishery.[35] Climate change is modifying fish distributions[36] and the productivity of marine and freshwater species. Climate change is expected to lead to significant changes in the availability and trade of fish products.[37] The geopolitical and economic consequences will be significant, especially for the countries most dependent on the sector. The biggest decreases in maximum catch potential can be expected in the tropics, mostly in the South Pacific regions.[37]: iv 

The impacts of climate change on ocean systems has impacts on the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture, on the livelihoods of the communities that depend on fisheries, and on the ability of the oceans to capture and store carbon (biological pump). The effect of sea level rise means that coastal fishing communities are significantly impacted by climate change, while changing rainfall patterns and water use impact on inland freshwater fisheries and aquaculture.[38] Increased risks of floods, diseases, parasites and harmful algal blooms are climate change impacts on aquaculture which can lead to losses of production and infrastructure.[37]

See also


  1. ^ Fletcher, WJ; Chesson, J; Fisher, M; Sainsbury KJ; Hundloe, T; Smith, ADM and Whitworth, B (2002) The "How To" guide for wild capture fisheries. National ESD reporting framework for Australian fisheries: FRDC Project 2000/145. Page 119–120.
  2. ^ "fishery". Dictionary. Retrieved 2021-08-09.
  3. ^ a b FAO Fishery Glossary; "Fishery" (Entry: 98327). Rome: FAO. 2009. p. 24. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  4. ^ Madden, CJ and Grossman, DH (2004) A Framework for a Coastal/Marine Ecological Classification Standard Archived October 29, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. NatureServe, page 86. Prepared for NOAA under Contract EA-133C-03-SE-0275
  5. ^ Blackhart, K; et al. (2006). NOAA Fisheries Glossary: "Fishery" (PDF) (Revised ed.). Silver Spring MD: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. p. 16. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  6. ^ "Open Access Fisheries Journals | Medical Journals". Retrieved 2022-07-06.
  7. ^ Nelson, Joseph S. (2006). Fishes of the World. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 2. ISBN 0-471-25031-7.
  8. ^ Jr. Cleveland P Hickman, Larry S. Roberts, Allan L. Larson: Integrated Principles of Zoology, McGraw-Hill Publishing Co, 2001, ISBN 0-07-290961-7
  9. ^ "Finfish – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics". Retrieved 2022-07-06.
  10. ^ "Scientific Facts on Fisheries". GreenFacts Website. 2009-03-02. Retrieved 2009-03-25.
  11. ^ New Zealand Seafood Industry Council. Mussel Farming. Archived 2008-12-28 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ C. Michael Hogan (2010) Overfishing, Encyclopedia of earth, topic ed. Sidney Draggan, ed. in chief C. Cleveland, National Council on Science and the Environment (NCSE), Washington, DC
  13. ^ Fisheries and Aquaculture in our Changing Climate Policy brief of the FAO for the UNFCCC COP-15 in Copenhagen, December 2009.
  14. ^ "Prince Charles calls for greater sustainability in fisheries". London Mercury. Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  15. ^ Hubert, Wayne; Quist, Michael, eds. (2010). Inland Fisheries Management in North America (Third ed.). Bethesda, MD: American Fisheries Society. p. 736. ISBN 978-1-934874-16-5.
  16. ^ a b c In brief, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2018 (PDF). FAO. 2018.
  17. ^ Lackey, Robert; Nielsen, Larry, eds. (1980). Fisheries management. Blackwell. p. 422. ISBN 978-0632006151.
  18. ^ "The ecosystem approach to fisheries" (PDF). FAO. Retrieved 7 July 2023.
  19. ^ Garcia SM, Zerbi A, Aliaume C, Do Chi T, Lasserre G (2003). The ecosystem approach to fisheries. Issues, terminology, principles, institutional foundations, implementation and outlook. FAO. ISBN 9789251049600.
  20. ^ a b FAO (1997) Fisheries Management Section 1.2, Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries. FAO, Rome. ISBN 92-5-103962-3
  21. ^ United Nations (2017) Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017, Work of the Statistical Commission pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (A/RES/71/313)
  22. ^ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fisheries Service, aboutus.htm
  23. ^ Kevern L. Cochrane, A Fishery Manager’s Guidebook: Management Measures and their Application, Fisheries Technical Paper 424, available at
  24. ^ Stewart, Robert (16 April 2009). "Fisheries Issues". Oceanography in the 21st Century – An Online Textbook. OceanWorld. Archived from the original on Apr 28, 2016.
  25. ^ Frouz, Jan; Frouzová, Jaroslava (2022). Applied Ecology. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-83225-4. ISBN 978-3-030-83224-7. S2CID 245009867.
  26. ^ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2019). "Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics 2017" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-10-26.
  27. ^ "Global population growth, wild fish stocks, and the future of aquaculture | Shark Research & Conservation Program (SRC) | University of Miami". Retrieved 2018-04-02.
  28. ^ Laville, Sandra (2019-11-06). "Dumped fishing gear is biggest plastic polluter in ocean, finds report". The Guardian. Retrieved 2022-05-10.
  29. ^ Magazine, Smithsonian; Kindy, David. "With Ropes and Nets, Fishing Fleets Contribute Significantly to Microplastic Pollution". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2022-05-10.
  30. ^ Worm, Boris; et al. (2006-11-03). "Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services". Science. 314 (5800): 787–790. Bibcode:2006Sci...314..787W. doi:10.1126/science.1132294. PMID 17082450. S2CID 37235806.
  31. ^ Juliet Eilperin (2 November 2006). "Seafood Population Depleted by 2048, Study Finds". The Washington Post.
  32. ^ Observations: Oceanic Climate Change and Sea Level Archived 2017-05-13 at the Wayback Machine In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (15 MB).
  33. ^ Doney, S. C. (March 2006). "The Dangers of Ocean Acidification" (PDF). Scientific American. 294 (3): 58–65. Bibcode:2006SciAm.294c..58D. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0306-58. PMID 16502612.
  34. ^ US EPA, OAR (2015-04-07). "Climate Action Benefits: Freshwater Fish". US EPA. Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  35. ^ Weatherdon, Lauren V.; Magnan, Alexandre K.; Rogers, Alex D.; Sumaila, U. Rashid; Cheung, William W. L. (2016). "Observed and Projected Impacts of Climate Change on Marine Fisheries, Aquaculture, Coastal Tourism, and Human Health: An Update". Frontiers in Marine Science. 3. doi:10.3389/fmars.2016.00048. ISSN 2296-7745.
  36. ^ Cheung, W.W.L.; et al. (October 2009). Redistribution of Fish Catch by Climate Change. A Summary of a New Scientific Analysis (PDF). Sea Around Us (Report). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-26.
  37. ^ a b c Manuel Barange; Tarûb Bahri; Malcolm C. M. Beveridge; K. L. Cochrane; S. Funge Smith; Florence Poulain, eds. (2018). Impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture: synthesis of current knowledge, adaptation and mitigation options. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 978-92-5-130607-9. OCLC 1078885208.
  38. ^ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ed. (2022), "Sea Level Rise and Implications for Low-Lying Islands, Coasts and Communities", The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate: Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 321–446, doi:10.1017/9781009157964.006, ISBN 978-1-00-915796-4, S2CID 246522316, retrieved 2022-04-06

Free content sources

 This article incorporates text from a free content work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO (license statement/permission). Text taken from In brief, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2018​, FAO, FAO.