The COVID-19 Pandemic, Small-Scale Fisheries and Coastal Fishing Communities

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly spread around the world with extensive social and economic effects. This editorial focuses specifically on the implications of the pandemic for small-scale fishers, including marketing and processing aspects of the sector, and coastal fishing communities, drawing from news and reports from around the world. Negative consequences to date have included complete shut-downs of some fisheries, knock-on economic effects from market disruptions, increased health risks for fishers, processors and communities, additional implications for marginalized groups, exacerbated vulnerabilities to other social and environmental stressors, and increased Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing.

Estimating Global Catches of Marine Recreational Fisheries

Commercial fisheries catches by country are documented since 1950 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Unfortunately, this does not hold for marine recreational catches, of which only few, if any, estimates are reported to FAO. We reconstructed preliminary estimates of likely marine recreational catches for 1950–2014, based on independent reconstructions for 125 countries. Our estimates of marine recreational catches that are retained and landed increased globally until the early 1980s, stabilized through the 1990s, and began increasing again thereafter, amounting to around 900,000 t⋅year–1 in 2014. Marine recreational catches thus account for slightly less than 1% of total global marine catches. Trends vary regionally, increasing in Asia, South America and Africa, while slightly decreasing in Europe and Oceania, and strongly decreasing in North America. The derived taxonomic composition indicates that recent catches were dominated by Sparidae (12% of total catches), followed by Scombridae (10%), Carangidae (6%), Gadidae (5%), and Sciaenidae (4%). The importance of Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays) in recreational fisheries in some regions is of concern, given the life-history traits of these taxa. Our preliminary catch reconstruction, despite high data uncertainty, should encourage efforts to improve national data reporting of recreational catches.

The fisheries of Africa: exploitation, policy, and maritime security trends.

African maritime countries take the majority of their animal protein from fish. Bound with tradition and a promise of food and other values, African fisheries also provide a source of livelihood for over 35 million coastal fishers. Yet, as in many other regions of the world, the fishing sector is plagued with policy failures, and illegal activities. This paper summarizes the key points in the evolution of African fisheries in terms of exploitation, policy, and maritime security trends. It addresses how access to fishing by the small-scale sector is increasingly hindered by the increasing power and scope of an industrial fleet often involved in Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. It also discusses the impacts of ineffective enforcement against overexploitation and illegal fishing, piracy, human smuggling and climate-change risks for coastal communities, as well as policy measures and initiatives to reverse the existing trends.

Establishing company level fishing revenue and profit losses from fisheries: A bottom-up approach

A third of global fish stocks are overexploited and many are economically underperforming, resulting in potential unrealized net economic benefits of USD 51 to 83 billion annually. However, this aggregate view, while useful for global policy discussion, may obscure the view for those actors who engage at a regional level. Therefore, we develop a method to associate large companies with their fishing operations and evaluate the biological sustainability of these operations. We link current fish biomass levels and landings to the revenue streams of the companies under study to compute potentially unrealized fisheries revenues and profits at the level of individual firms. We illustrate our method using two case studies: anchoveta (Engraulis ringens; Engraulidae) in Peru and menhaden in the USA (Brevoortia patronus and B. tyrannus;Clupeidae). We demonstrate that both these fisheries could potentially increase their revenues compared to the current levels of exploitation. We estimate the net but unrealized fishery benefits for the companies under question. This information could be useful to investors and business owners who might want to be aware of the actual fisheries performance options of the companies they invest in.

Impacts of anthropogenic and natural “extreme events” on global fisheries

A broad range of extreme events can affect fisheries catch and hence performance. Using a compiled database of extreme events for all maritime countries in the world between 1950 to 2010, we estimate effects on national fisheries catches, by sector, large‐scale industrial and small scale (artisanal, subsistence and recreational). Contrary to general expectations, fisheries catches respond positively to nearly all forms of extreme events, suggesting a valuable coping or compensation mechanism for coastal communities as they increase their catch after extreme events, but also an opportunistic behaviour by foreign industrial fishing fleets, as industrial catches increase. These effects vary according to country characteristics, with lower coping capacity for coastal communities and higher opportunistic fishing by foreign fleets in countries with poor governance, higher unemployment and direct exposure to prolonged armed conflicts. We also observe an accumulative effect resulting from the aggregation of multiple disasters that deserves further consideration for disaster mitigation. These findings may assist with managing fisheries towards increasing resilience and adaptive capacity such as early detection of potential impacts, protecting livelihoods and food sources, preventing illegal fishing by industrial fleets and informing aid responses towards recovery.

Assessing Guinea Bissau’s legal and illegal unreported and unregulated fisheries and the surveillance efforts to tackle them.

Fisheries in Guinea Bissau contribute greatly to the economy and food security of its people. Yet, as the ability of the country to monitor its fisheries is at most weak, and confronted with a heavy foreign fleet presence, the impact of industrial foreign fleets on fisheries catches is unaccounted for in the region. However, their footprint in terms of catch and value on the small-scale sector is heavily felt, through declining availability of fish. Fisheries in Guinea Bissau are operated by both legal (small-scale and industrial), and illegal (foreign unauthorized) fleets, whose catches are barely recorded. In this paper, we assess catches by both the legal and illegal sector, and the economic loss generated by illegal fisheries in the country, then attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) of Guinea Bissau’s fisheries.

War, fish, and foreign fleets: the marine fisheries catches of Sierra Leone 1950–2015.

In countries like Sierra Leone, where stock assessments based on fisheries-independent data and complex population models are financially and technically challenging, catch statistics may be used to infer fluctuations in fish stocks where more precise data are not available. However, FAO FishStat, the most widely-used time-series data on global fisheries ‘catches’ (actually ‘landings’), does not account for Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) catches and relies on statistics provided by the national agencies of each member country. As such, reported FishStat data is vulnerable to changes in monitoring capacity, governmental transitions, and budgetary constraints, and may substantially underestimate the measure of extracted marine resources. In this report, Sierra Leone’s total catches by all marine fishing sectors were estimated for the period 1950–2015, using a catch reconstruction approach incorporating national data, expert knowledge, and both peer-reviewed and grey literature.