The Urban Future of Fisheries
Cities are probably not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about fisheries management. We often think instead of wild streams, big ocean vessels, or maybe colorful coral reefs. But for the future fisheries professional, cities are important sites. In my own research, I have come to appreciate, and be fascinated by, the dynamic role cities play in where and how people live, the way land and natural resources are used, and how we structure our economies. In this vignette, I hope to impart the importance of cities for fisheries management and managers, and to offer advice based on my own experiences in navigating these urban dimensions.
Urban areas are growing rapidly, with consequences for land use, water demand, and water quality. Between 1970 and 2000, an estimated 58,000 square kilometers of land became urbanized (Seto et al. 2011)—this is equivalent to an area nearly twice the size of Belgium. While the highest urban growth rates are occurring in Asia and Africa, North America is the most heavily urbanized region of the world, with nearly 86% of the population living in urban areas (UNDP 2010). The patterns and processes of urban growth mean that land once acting as infiltration basins, floodplains, or forests is no longer serving these ecological functions. This urban transformation of our landscapes can have permanent consequences for aquatic systems and their fisheries. The hydrologic cycle can become altered as runoff, evaporation, and even precipitation patterns change with rapid urbanization. The sustainability of fisheries—both freshwater and ocean—will be determined in part by these changes.