From Catastrophe to Recovery: Stories of Fishery Management Success

From Sustainability to Catastrophe to Recovery: The Need for Using an Ecosystem Approach for Responsible Fishery Management

Devin M. Bartley


The title for this epilogue was chosen to highlight why many of the world’s fisheries are in trouble and why an ecosystem approach to fishery management is needed. Although natural events such as tornados, floods, and droughts certainly impact fisheries, for the most part it is humans that are directly or indirectly responsible for the poor state of many of the world’s fisheries today. The problem facing these fisheries may seem obvious, but the often unsuccessful efforts at developing and implementing effective fishery management programs have not adequately addressed the human component of the fishery ecosystem. Not addressed are especially those humans who may not be fishers or, at the other extreme, those humans who have fishing as their only livelihood option. Just as most of the contributions to this book addressed inland fisheries, so too will this epilogue. Inland, or freshwater, fisheries present special challenges to fishers and to fishery managers.

Evidence of early humans fishing and eating fish dates back millennia. Bones of tilapia and catfish were found with settlements of Homo erectus and Homo habilis in the Olduvai Gorge of Tanzania (Gartside and Kirkegaard 2009). The Aurignac people of the late Paleolithic period were considered the first “modern” Homo sapiens and began making pointed bits of bone and horn to help capture river fish (Sahrhage and Lundbeck 1992). In ancient times, hunting, gathering, and trapping on the worlds aquatic ecosystems was a low-tech activity, and as such, “fairly sustainable yields were obtained” (Sahrhage and Lundbeck 1992:61).

Although technological progress and increased efficiency have been made in fishing since ancient times, such as the use of motorized boats, synthetic mono and multifilament nets, and global positioning systems, “methods of fishing have not, in principle, changed much over thousands of years” (Sahrhage and Lundbeck 1992:2). This observation is especially true for the world’s inland fisheries, where the majority of production comes from small-scale fisheries in developing countries (Bartley et al. 2016).