Seamount Fisheries: Do They Have a Future?

T. N. J. Pitcher, M. R. Clark, T. Morato, R. Watson, (2010). Oceanography 23, 134.  1042-8275.

Today, seamount fish populations are in trouble following a 30-year history of overexploitation, depletion, and collapse, with untold consequences for global biodiversity and the complex, delicate, but poorly understood, open-ocean food webs. Seamount fishes are especially vulnerable to fishing because their “boomand-bust” life history characteristics can be exploited by heavy, high-technology fisheries. We estimate present global seamount catches to be about 3 million tonnes per annum and increasing—vastly in excess of estimated sustainable levels. Unfortunately, most seamount fisheries are unmanaged. In a few developed countries, precautionary management regimes have recently been introduced, including protection from bottom trawling. Small-scale artisanal fisheries using less-harmful fishing gear, patial closures, and low catch levels provide an attractive model for improved seamount fishery management that could foster the reconstruction of previously damaged seamount ecosystems. Such restored systems might one day support a substantial global sustainable fishery, although, like many other fisheries, the prognosis is poor.