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Reconsidering historical definitions of overfishing and the balance between sustainable use and overexploitation
Goethel, D.R.; Cadrin, S.X.; Rothschild, B.J. (2012). Reconsidering historical definitions of overfishing and the balance between sustainable use and overexploitation. CM Documents - ICES, 2012(L:25). ICES: Copenhagen. 18 + table pp.
Part of: ICES CM Documents - ICES. ICES: Copenhagen. ISSN 1015-4744

Available in  Authors 
    Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee: Open access 247565 [ download pdf ]

Author keywords
    Sustainability, overfishing, fisheries management, ICES history

Authors  Top 
  • Goethel, D.R.
  • Cadrin, S.X.
  • Rothschild, B.J.

    Overexploitation and sustainability have been core concepts in the management of renewable resources since the 1600s. Traditionally, these terms were directly linked to one another, so that overexploitation was truly unsustainable. In fisheries management, the connection between them was severed when maximum sustainable yield became the guiding principal for many management bodies in the 1950s. The current tendency is to consider fishery management a failure if a stock is ‘overfished’. However, the abuse of such terms has led to inappropriate negative perceptions of management systems and the fishing industry. By tracing the origins of the term ‘overfishing’ we demonstrate that modern management systems that link overfishing to an optimal fishing mortality reference point do not adhere to the traditional concept. We suggest a revival of historical definitions of overfishing, based on short-term time horizons. Such a reinterpretation would define sustainable use as harvesting up to the reproductive surplus of the resource, while overexploitation would be indicated by harvesting more than could be naturally replaced in a given year. By re-defining overfishing as unsustainable fishing mortality, the unwarranted negative perception of fisheries can be avoided and promote conservative fishing techniques.

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