Global Fishing Capacity and Fishing Effort from 1950–2012

J. D. Bell, R. A. Watson, Y. Ye, (In Press). Fish and Fisheries,

Fisheries management, fishing power, fishing energy use, fishing efficiency, global


Global marine wild capture landings have remained relatively stable for >20 years, however there is a lack of credible fishing capacity and effort information required to assess the likely sustainability and efficiency of the global fleet. As such, we estimated global fishing capacity and effort from 1950-2012 using a relatively comprehensive database developed by the FAO, supplemented by other data sources. Using random sampling techniques, we estimated the uncertainty surrounding many of our estimates enabling the identification of deficiencies and limitations. Global fishing capacity and effort increased rapidly from the late 1970’s through to around 2010 before stabilising. The Asian fleet is more than an order of magnitude larger than any other region in both capacity and effort and continues to increase. Most other regions have stabilised and there have been considerable declines in Europe and to a lesser extent North America. Developed nations, as a whole, have decreased in both measures in recent years and are responsible for the stabilisation of the global trend. Developing and undeveloped countries are still increasing with the former having the largest fleet and showing the greatest relative increase and the socio-economic impacts of reversing these trends are likely to be high. The efficiency of the global fleet, in terms of watt days of fishing effort per tonnage of wild marine catch, is now less than in 1950 despite the considerable technological advances, and expansion throughout the world’s oceans, that has occurred during this period of time.