Sustainable Fishing and Maximum Sustainable Yield

"Cod” wrote Smith Homans, and J Smith Homans back in 1858, is “a species too well known to require any description. It is amazingly prolific. Leeuwenhoek counted 9,384,000 eggs in a cod-fish of middling size – a number that will baffle all the effortsof man to exterminate”. But we are a clever, highly-adaptive species, and it didn’t take too long before we were no longer baffled. Fisheries prospered, and then fisheries collapsed. Eighty-five years after the Cyclopedia of Commerce and Commercial Navigation was printed, a new mantra for fisheries was voiced by Michael Graham: “Fisheries that are unlimited become unprofitable”.

Today we are very much aware of just how rapidly we can deplete any fish stock, and the socio-economic impacts to fishers, and dependent trades and communities. Today, step into the Economic Exclusive Zone of America and you will find commercial fisheries managers striving to find maximise extraction from a stock without causing its collapse – the search for the ‘optimum catch’...

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This article originally appeared in Marine Scientist in August 2014.  Marine Scientist is only available in print format.

Image: Stevestpm.  Credit: dvdmnk/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)