, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 161-176

Recent trends in estuarine fisheries: Predictions of fish production and yield

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Abstract

Trends in global and United States fish catches were examined to determine the status of estuarine fisheries yields relative to those from other ecosystems. Potential marine fish production, based upon primary production relationships, was estimated globally and for specific marine ecosystems, including estuaries. While global fish catches increased substantially during the past two decades and continued to increase through 1989, catches of estuarine-dependent species have peaked or stabilized. In the United States, total catches have increased but many estuarine-dependent fisheries have declined, although the declines in catches are no more dramatic than those of heavily-fished continental shelf species. Overfishing probably is the primary cause of declines in estuarine and shelf fisheries. A few estuarine-dependent species of the United States have experienced substantial increases in harvests since 1970, for example, Pacific salmons, menhaden, and penaeid shrimps. The percentage contribution of major estuarine fisheries to the United States commercial catch declined between 1970 and 1990, although the yield of these species increased substantially. Global marine fisheries production at trophic level 2.5 was estimated to be 1,359 million tons. Potential yield was estimated to be 307 million tons, but the 1989 world marine catch was only 86.5 million tons. The major fraction, 196 million tons, of the estimated potential yeild was for the open ocean where technological constraints may prevent its full realization. Of the remaining 111 million tons of the potential, 18.0 million tons (16.2%) may come from estuaries and probably already is fully exploited. The potential catches from shelves, 68.5 million tons (61.6%), and upwelling areas, 24.8 million tons (22.2%), while considerably larger than those from estuaries, are lower in a relative sense (per unit area) than fisheries production and potential catch in estuarine zones. Relationships between fish production, fish harvest, and primary production were examined in specific estuaries. The developing role of aquaculture and its effect on estuarine fisheries are discussed.

This paper was given as an invited presentation at the Plenary Session held at the 11th Biennial Meeting of the Estuarine Research Federation, November 10–14, 1991, San Francisco, California.