Shifting Baselines

The Past and the Future of Ocean Fisheries

  • Editors
  • Jeremy B. C. Jackson
  • Karen E. Alexander
  • Enric Sala

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Introduction: The Importance of Shifting Baselines

    1. Jeremy B. C. Jackson, Karen E. Alexander
      Pages 1-7
  3. The Problem Defined

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 9-11
    2. Carl Safina
      Pages 13-19
    3. U. Rashid Sumaila, Daniel Pauly
      Pages 21-32
  4. Anchovies and Sardines

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 43-45
    2. Alec D. MacCall
      Pages 47-57
    3. David B. Field, Francisco Chavez, Carina B. Lange, Paul E. Smith
      Pages 59-76
  5. Cod

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 77-78
    2. W. Jeffrey Bolster, Karen E. Alexander, William B. Leavenworth
      Pages 79-113
    3. Daniel Vickers, Loren McClenachan
      Pages 115-133
  6. Methods in Historical Marine Ecology

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 135-136
    2. Heike K. Lotze, Jon M. Erlandson, Marah J. Hardt, Richard D. Norris, Kaustuv Roy, Tim D. Smith et al.
      Pages 137-161
    3. Stephen R. Palumbi
      Pages 163-173
  7. From Fisheries Management to Ecosystems

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 175-176
    2. Andrew A. Rosenberg, Karen E. Alexander, Jamie M. Cournane
      Pages 177-191
    3. Enric Sala, Jeremy B. C. Jackson
      Pages 193-203
    4. Jeremy B. C. Jackson, Karen E. Alexander
      Pages 205-206
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 207-296

About this book


Shifting Baselines explores the real-world implications of a groundbreaking idea: we must understand the oceans of the past to protect the oceans of the future. In 1995, acclaimed marine biologist Daniel Pauly coined the term "shifting baselines" to describe a phenomenon of lowered expectations, in which each generation regards a progressively poorer natural world as normal. This seminal volume expands on Pauly's work, showing how skewed visions of the past have led to disastrous marine policies and why historical perspective is critical to revitalize fisheries and ecosystems.

Edited by marine ecologists Jeremy Jackson and Enric Sala, and historian Karen Alexander, the book brings together knowledge from disparate disciplines to paint a more realistic picture of past fisheries. The authors use case studies on the cod fishery and the connection between sardine and anchovy populations, among others, to explain various methods for studying historic trends and the intricate relationships between species. Subsequent chapters offer recommendations about both specific research methods and effective management. This practical information is framed by inspiring essays by Carl Safina and Randy Olson on a personal experience of shifting baselines and the importance of human stories in describing this phenomenon to a broad public. 

While each contributor brings a different expertise to bear, all agree on the importance of historical perspective for effective fisheries management. Readers, from students to professionals, will benefit enormously from this informed hindsight.


Biodiversity Fisheries management Historical ecology Marine ecosystems Maximum sustainable yield

Bibliographic information