The Contribution of Cephalopods to Global Marine Fisheries: Can We Have Our Squid and Eat Them Too?

M. E. Hunsicker, T. E. Essington, R. Watson, U. R. Sumaila, (2010). Fish and fisheries 11, 421-438.

Cephalopods are a key component of marine food webs, providing sustenance for myriad marine species. Cephalopods are also of increasing economic importance as evidenced by the rapid rise in their global landings over recent decades. If fisheries continue on this trajectory, conflicts may transpire among cephalopod and finfish fisheries, particularly in ecosystems where cephalopods are highly valuable both directly as a landed commodity and indirectly as prey for other harvested species. We provide the first measure of the ecosystem services that cephalopods contribute to fisheries in 28 marine ecosystems, both as a commodity and an ecological support service. We also evaluate how current demands on cephalopods compare to mid-20th century conditions. We find that cephalopod contributions to fisheries vary widely, but are substantial in many ecosystems. Commodity and supportive services provided by cephalopods contributed as much as 55% of fishery landings (tonnes) and 70% of landed values ($USD). The contribution of cephalopods as a commodity was generally greatest in the coastal ecosystems, whereas their contribution as a supportive service was highest in open ocean systems. Further, the commodity and supportive services provided by cephalopods to fisheries landings increased in most of the coastal ecosystems between the mid-20th century (years 1960–70) and contemporary periods (years 1990–2004), indicating the rising demand for cephalopods. Current demands have no historical precedent and ecosystems in which cephalopods are highly exploited as a targeted resource and as an ecological support service should be further evaluated to prevent the unsustainable development of marine fisheries within them.