Freshwater, Fish and the Future: Proceedings of the Global Cross-Sectoral Conference

Inland Fisheries: Past, Present, and Future

Robin Welcomme


This address is intended to set a background to the conference on freshwater, fish, and the future by examining the nature of inland fisheries and how we reached our present state of knowledge and offering possible directions for the future.

In 2012, records submitted to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) by member countries show that inland fish catches reached 11,630,680 metric tons after a more or less linear growth of 3.6% per year since 1950. Most of this catch came from Asia (68%); 23% came from Africa, and the rest from the other continents. Even within the various continents, yields were very strongly distributed by country. For instance in Asia, 90% of the catch came from only eight countries, whereas in Africa, 18 countries contributed 90% of the catch (Welcomme 2011). Nevertheless, inland fisheries continue to play an important role in the livelihoods and food security of large numbers of people in all countries of the world. For example, it has been estimated that more than 56 million people were directly involved in inland fisheries in the developing world in 2009 (BNP 2009). Participation by recreational fishers is more difficult to assess, but recreational fisheries have been estimated to involve 118 million people in North America, Europe, and Oceania (Arlinghaus et al. 2015) and be worth £1 × 109 in UK household incomes for 37,000 household jobs (Mawle and Peirson 2009), €25 × 109 in Europe (European Anglers Alliance and European Fishing Tackle Trade Association, presentation in the European Parliament 25 March 2004), Can$8.3 × 109 in Canada (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2010), and US$34 × 109/year expenditures, retail sales, and license fees (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 2011). In addition, the fishery for ornamental species was valued at US$1.5 × 109 for both marine and inland species in 1998.