Human beings have always had a culture of fishing. Be it on a recreational level or industrial, people have always relied on the marine environment as a source of food. With global populations growing at a rate expected to reach 9 billion by the year 2050 (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012), the sustainability of fishing practices has been drawn into question. Seafood, be it shellfish or finfish, provides the human race with our most diverse source of protein (Naylor et al., 2000), with the industry being thought to reach its peak in the 1990s, at 90 million tonnes per annum (Watson et al., 2001).
Issues Relating to Fish Stock
This pressure has been brought about by industrial activity and lack of proper biological knowledge, as well as from open access fisheries and poorly defined limits. In an Irish context, this can be seen by the use of Irish waters by Spanish fishermen dating back as early as the 1500s and more recently the European “super-trawlers” utilising Irish waters in November of 2015.
Globally, over 80% of all commercial fish stocks have been defined as being overfished, depleted, or recovering by the United Nations (2010), and are a direct result of an increase in the level of fishing. This increase began with the advancement of fishing gear after the Second World War (Pauly et al., 2002), which has been continually advancing well into the 21st century. This fact has been realised by many of the world governing bodies, including the Irish Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and many restrictions have been placed upon the fishing industry in recent years.
These restrictions include quotas and total allowable catch, discard bans, the introduction of fisheries observers, loss and damage of gear, and even the decommissioning of fishing vessels. With the need now to fish at maximum sustainable yield, in order to maintain both a biological and economic level of sustainability, this has added additional pressures to Irish fishermen, and therefore upon the coastal communities who rely upon them.
Find out more about the following topics relating to fisheries: