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Are Seamount Fisheries On Their Way to Sustainability?
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We have only sparse knowledge of the fisheries ecology of seamounts partly because of the difficulty of field research and partly because fishing occurs in remote high seas areas. In this SEAMOUNTS'09 keynote Tony Pitcher reviews what we know of the extent, status and prospects for seamount fisheries. For example, in the 1970s, new technology enabled trawling of small, steep, rough seamount flanks. Since then, serial depletion has been the norm world-wide. A global spatial algorithm estimates annual catches peaking at 1.2 million tonnes in the mid 1990s, while catches of secondary seamount fish, currently 3 million tonnes per year, are still increasing. Catch reconstructions from 29 seamount regions reveal massive historical exploitation by large-scale distant water fleets from the Soviets and Japan. Almost no large-scale seamount fisheries have proven sustainable. The exceptions are a few low volume, high value seamount fisheries in developed countries. Moreover, many fishing operations have serious physical impacts on slow-growing, long-lived organisms forming biogenic habitat, so that recovery from fishing impacts is slow. Desirable sustainability features can be found in small-scale fisheries on seamounts from local is-land nations, often accompanied by bans on bottom trawls, which can catch about 0.25 million tonnes/year.
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