Oceans’ Bounty

Authored by: Vikram M. Mehta

Natural Decadal Climate Variability

Print publication date:  April  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781466554528
eBook ISBN: 9781315374482
Adobe ISBN:


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The sardine fishery was thriving off the California coast in the 1930s CE. As the commercial fishing fleets kept harvesting larger and larger sardine captures, * some biologists cautioned that sardine stocks might be severely depleted by overfishing. In response to this, shipboard canneries—floating outside the 3-mile (4.8 km) limit where the State of California had jurisdiction—harvested even bigger annual captures (McEvoy 2009). Then, inexplicably, the California sardine fishery collapsed in the 1940s CE. In order to meet the demand for fishmeal by growing U.S. poultry and cattle industry after the Second World War, the ships and fish processing technology used by the California sardine industry were acquired by the Peruvian anchovy industry, and large-scale anchovy fishing began off the coast of Peru in South America. Many millions of tonnes of anchovies were harvested from the early 1950s to the early 1970s CE, and, occasionally, up to 8000 tonnes of anchovies were processed per hour by fishmeal plants. Then, anchovy stocks depleted rapidly in the early 1970s CE, resulting in the collapse of the Peruvian anchovy fishery. What caused the rise and fall of the California sardine fishery and the Peruvian anchovy fishery? Overfishing was certainly a major cause, but was it the only cause?

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