The term fishery is used to describe the waters where fishing takes place or the species of fish being harvested.
Fisheries include familiar finned fish species, like cod and flounder; mollusks, including oysters and squid; and crustaceans, such as shrimp and crabs.
Lesser known fisheries include echinoderms, like sea urchins; some amphibians, including frogs; and coelenterates, such as jellyfish.
Even the harvest of whales is usually considered a fishery. Fisheries are an important source of food, income, jobs, and recreation for people around the world.
This is particularly true in island nations, such as Japan and Iceland, where seafood is eaten as a major source of protein. The average person in Iceland eats nearly 90 kg (200 lb) of fish per year, more than six times the worldwide average.
Worldwide harvest of fishery products has steadily increased to meet the growing global demand for seafood. In 1995, an estimated 113 million metric tonnes of fishery products were harvested. China was responsible for the largest harvest, followed by Peru, Chile, Japan, the United States, India and Russia.
The increasing demand for seafood has led to a complex, global system of trade in fisheries products. Japan is the largest importer, followed by the United States, France, Spain and Germany.
Thailand is the largest exporter, followed by the United States, Norway, China and Denmark. The United States imports large quantities of high-valued fishery products, such as shrimp and lobster.
Today scientists consider many fisheries to be fished beyond the capacity of the resource. Current harvest rates are not thought to be sustainable that is, able to be maintained year after year without depletion of the fish stock.
Experts believe that increases in world fish supply will require better management of the resources as well as the increased use of fish farming or aquaculture.
The range of fisheries is immense over 4000 aquatic species are harvested worldwide. The shrimp fishery alone includes well over 40 species. Fisheries are located almost anywhere there is water.
Over 80 per cent of the world’s fisheries are located in the coastal and ocean environment, and the remaining 20 per cent are found in inland freshwater fisheries. Currently, over half of the world’s fishery harvests come from the Pacific Ocean; 25 per cent are from the North Pacific alone.
The largest fisheries group is made up of small, pelagic (open ocean) fishes such as herring, sardine, anchovy, and related species.
Over 20 per cent of the world’s fishery harvest comes from this group, and Chile and Peru are the leading harvesters. These fish have relatively low commercial value and are often used to make feed for poultry, hogs, and other animals.