Fishery biomass trends of exploited fish populations in marine ecoregions, climatic zones and ocean basins
This contribution presents time series of the ‘fishery biomass’ of fish populations, defined as the weight (whole-body, wet weight) of the in-water part of a fishable population, i.e., that part of a population (also called ‘stock’) that is exposed to a certain fishing gear. Detailed data of this type are only available for a limited number of species that are targets of the fisheries in the waters of economically developed regions, such as Europe, the USA, Canada or Australia. However, similar fishery biomass assessments are generally lacking for developing countries, even for many of their most heavily fished species. Here, an estimation of the long-term fishery biomass trends of 1320 fish and invertebrate populations for 483 species exploited by fisheries in the 232 coastal Marine Ecoregions (MEs) around the world was undertaken. Fishery biomass trends were derived using the Bayesian CMSY stock assessment method applied to the global fisheries catch database for 1950–2014 as reconstructed by the Sea Around Us for every maritime fishing country in the world. Overall, the results suggest a consistent decline in the fishery biomass of exploited populations, in virtually all climatic zones and ocean basins in the world. The only zone with currently higher fishery biomass than in 1950 is the northern Pacific polar-boreal zone, likely due to environmental changes that occurred in the region positively affecting fish populations, combined with prudent management of the fisheries. For populations in MEs that are known to have highly questionable catch statistics, the results suggested smaller declines in fishery biomass than likely occurred in reality, implying that these results do not exaggerate declining trends in fishery biomass. This study used informative Bayesian priors to improve the trend analyses in areas where systematic stock assessments were conducted. The use of these independent assessments reduced the uncertainty associated with the findings of this study.