Fishing equipment ranges from small boats whose nets are cast and hauled in byhand to factory ships equipped with the most advanced technologies for finding,harvesting, and preparing huge amounts of fish. These large catches are verycostly, however, not only in the price of their equipment and fuel, but also inthe depletion of fishery resources their use brings about. The major portion of the total fish harvest consists of few fishspecies, which are divided into two primary groups. Pelagic species – thosewhich live in the near-surface layers of the oceans, this include severalspecies of herring, tuna, salmon, anchovies, pilchard, sardines, menhaden, andmackerel. Demersal species – fish that live in the near-bottom layers of theocean, this includes cod, sole, halibut, haddock, hake, and flounder.
Largecatches are also made of a group of fish classed commercially as SHELLFISH -shrimp, lobster, scallops, oysters, clams, crabs, mussels, and squid. WHALINGwas once a major part of the fishing industry. Overfishing has endangered manywhale numbers, however, and the field has lessened in importance. Almost all large pelagic and demersal fish catches are made over or nearthe continental shelf, the underwater plateau around the continents and largeislands.
In these waters temperatures, water depths, and the currents thatinfluence the amounts of available food create an environment that is highlyfavourable to the existence of large schools of fish. The animals living in and on the bottom of the continental shelf serveas additional food sources for demersal fish. Also, most species spawn oncontinental shelves, and the main nursery grounds of many species are also incoastal regions. The main fishing grounds are located on the wider continentalshelves of the mid and high latitudes. The single most important area is theNorth Pacific, where as much as one-quarter of the world’s fish catch is taken.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FISHING INDUSTRYPrehistoric people were hunters and food collectors, and they found muchof their food in lakes, rivers, and shallow coastal ocean waters. Shellfish werethe most accessible food , and the large shell heaps found around the firstfishing technique, the use of bare hands. During 10,000-6000 BC, certain cultures that depended almost entirelyon a diet of fish developed primitive fishing technologies. The ScandinavianMaglemosian culture used stone-pointed fishing spears, antler and bone harpoonsand fishhooks, and lines and nets woven of bark fiber. Improved equipmentincreased the size of catches, and preservation techniques were developed fordrying, smoking, salting, and pickling fish.
As larger boats were built, fishingcraft adventured farther into the oceans, and sea fishing developed into a well-defined business, with settlements whose main occupation was catching fish. Early ocean fisheries were confined to the coastal regions of settledareas and to the Mediterranean Sea, which had been the traditional fishinggrounds for large numbers of fish species, especially tuna. Slowly, the richfishing regions of the Atlantic Ocean and the North and Baltic seas began to beexploited. The opening of these new fishing grounds had a significant influenceon the spread of trade during the Middle Ages and on the establishment of newtrade routes – for example, the herring fisheries in the southern Baltic andNorth seas that helped to establish the HANSEATIC LEAGUE. The opening of the fishing areas around Nova Scotia and Newfoundland hada serious effect on European history.
First fished by the French in the early1500s, by the beginning of the 17th century the North Atlantic fisheries hadbecome the main source of New World wealth for England. PRINCIPAL FISHERIESThe most important world fisheries are located in waters less than 400 min depth. Major fishing grounds are in the North Atlantic including the GRANDBANKS and the Georges Banks off the New England coast, the North Sea, the watersover the continental shelves of Iceland and Norway, and the Barents Sea; in theNorth Pacific, specifically the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, and the coastalareas around Japan; and off the coasts of China and Malaysia. Other importantfishing grounds are found off the coasts of the southeastern United States,Chile, Peru, Argentina, and the Falkland Islands, and off the coasts of Namibiaand South Africa. More than one-half of the marine fish catch in the United States istaken in the Northeast Pacific and in Alaskan coastal waters.
In 1993 the totalof all the