The High Seas and IUU Fishing

Authored by: Henrik Österblom , Örjan Bodin , Anthony J. Press , U. Rashid Sumaila

Routledge Handbook of Ocean Resources and Management

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415531757
eBook ISBN: 9780203115398
Adobe ISBN: 9781136294822


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The high seas are the areas beyond national jurisdiction, offshore from the productive shelf areas, where most fisheries are operating (Figure 15.1). However, decreasing fish stocks in many coastal areas (Jackson et al. 2001, Christensen et al. 2003) have historically pushed fisheries operations further offshore and to new species. In the 1950s, only 9 per cent of global catches were taken from the high seas, whereas the corresponding number in 2010 was 12 per cent (Sumaila et al. 2015). Global and regional patterns of fishing are characterized by catches at increasing depths (Pauly et al. 2003, Morato et al. 2006, Villasante et al. 2012) and further from markets (Swartz et al. 2010). The deep sea beyond the continental shelf edges and away from individual nations jurisdiction is thus becoming an increasingly important area for wild capture fisheries. Many of the species caught in these areas are long-lived, start reproducing late and have limited capacity to sustain commercial catches (e.g. Norse et al. 2012). It is also not uncommon that these species aggregate around deep-sea features such as hydrothermal vents or deep-sea corals, with high or unknown biodiversity values making them vulnerable to overfishing.

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