Characterizing fishing effort and spatial extent of coastal fisheries.
Biodiverse coastal zones are often areas of intense fishing pressure due to the high relative density of fishing capacity in these nearshore regions. Although overcapacity is one of the central challenges to fisheries sustainability in coastal zones, accurate estimates of fishing pressure in coastal zones are limited, hampering the assessment of the direct and collateral impacts (e.g., habitat degradation, bycatch) of fishing. We compiled a comprehensive database of fishing effort metrics and the corresponding spatial limits of fisheries and used a spatial analysis program (FEET) to map fishing effort density (measured as boat-meters per km²) in the coastal zones of six ocean regions. We also considered the utility of a number of socioeconomic variables as indicators of fishing pressure at the national level; fishing density increased as a function of population size and decreased as a function of coastline length. Our mapping exercise points to intra and interregional 'hotspots' of coastal fishing pressure. The significant and intuitive relationships we found between fishing density and population size and coastline length may help with coarse regional characterizations of fishing pressure. However, spatially-delimited fishing effort data are needed to accurately map fishing hotspots, i.e., areas of intense fishing activity. We suggest that estimates of fishing effort, not just target catch or yield, serve as a necessary measure of fishing activity, which is a key link to evaluating sustainability and environmental impacts of coastal fisheries.
Stewart, KR; Lewison, RL; Dunn, DC; Bjorkland, RH; Kelez, S; Halpin, PN; Crowder, LB
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