Cover image for In a perfect ocean : the state of fisheries and ecosystems in the North Atlantic Ocean
In a perfect ocean : the state of fisheries and ecosystems in the North Atlantic Ocean
Pauly, D. (Daniel)
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington : Island Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xxx, 175 pages : color illustrations, color maps ; 24 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
SH213.2 .P38 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Recent decades have been marked by the decline or collapse of one fishery after another around the world, from swordfish in the North Atlantic to orange roughy in the South Pacific. While the effects of a collapse on local economies and fishing-dependent communities have generated much discussion, little attention has been paid to its impacts on the overall health of the ocean's ecosystems.In a Perfect Ocean: The State of Fisheries and Ecosystems in the North Atlantic Oceanpresents the first empirical assessment of the status of ecosystems in the North Atlantic ocean. Drawing on a wide range of studies including original research conducted for this volume, the authors analyze 14 large marine ecosystems to provide an indisputable picture of an ocean whose ecology has been dramatically altered, resulting in a phenomenon described by the authors as "fishing down the food web." The book:provides a snapshot of the past health of the North Atlantic and compares it to its present statuspresents a rigorous scientific assessment based on the key criteria of fisheries catches, biomass, and trophic levelconsiders the factors that have led to the current situationdescribes the policy options available for halting the declineoffers recommendations for restoring the North AtlanticAn original and powerful series of maps and charts illustrate where the effects of overfishing are the most pronounced and highlight the interactions among various factors contributing to the overall decline of the North Atlantic's ecosystems.This is the first in a series of assessments by the world's leading marine scientists, entitled "The State of the World's Oceans."In a Perfect Ocean: The State of Fisheries and Ecosystems in the North Atlantic Oceanis a landmark study, the first of its kind to make a comprehensive, ecosystem-based assessment of the North Atlantic Ocean, and will be essential reading for policymakers at the state, national, and international level concerned with fisheries management, as well for scientists, researchers, and activists concerned with marine issues or fishing and the fisheries industry.

Author Notes

Daniel Pauly is the principal investigator for the Sea Around Us project, sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts and based at the Fisheries Centre of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In the words of National Geographic Society's Sylvia Earle, this book "is destined to be a classic scientific work, but with the appeal of a compelling detective story." Eschewing the turgid, cautious language of formal scientific literature as well as the overblown rhetoric and underdocumented assertions of much environmental media, Pauly (Univ. of British Columbia) and Maclean penetrate to the heart of their subject: the fate of fisheries in the North Atlantic. It is an unpleasant story of failed fishing governance, "fishing down," "squashed pyramids and shorter food chains," and once-teeming ocean areas turned into biological deserts or marginal fisheries sustained by large national subsidies. The authors discuss the waterfront, from food chain and bioenvironment through fisheries history, technology, and politics. They reviewed "thousands of reports, books, articles, scientific papers, and electronic databases" to tell the story for the first time on a 50- to 100-year time scale. The book offers minor success stories and presents detailed, pragmatic scenarios to rebuild fisheries. Its detailed documentation will appeal to serious professionals, graduate students, and policy makers, and the text will inform and excite the literate general reader. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels. F. T. Manheim George Mason University

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Mapsp. xiii
Prefacep. xvii
Acknowledgmentsp. xix
Introductionp. xxi
1. A Brief History of the North Atlantic and Its Resourcesp. 1
Past Abundance in the North Atlanticp. 5
Development of the North Atlantic Fisheriesp. 10
Northeast Atlantic fisheriesp. 11
Northwest Atlantic fisheriesp. 14
Effects of Technologyp. 17
The Importance of Understanding the Pastp. 19
2. The Decline of North Atlantic Fisheriesp. 23
How Much Fish is Being Caught?p. 29
Reported catchesp. 29
Discards, illegal, and unreported catchesp. 30
Fishing Effort and Related Indicesp. 33
Fishing intensityp. 33
Economic efficiencyp. 36
Energy efficiencyp. 39
Impacts on Biomass and Ecosystemsp. 43
Biomass declinesp. 48
Fishing down marine food websp. 48
Squashed pyramids and shorter food chainsp. 53
Competition with marine mammalsp. 56
Report Card for an Impoverished Oceanp. 61
3. How Did We Get Here?p. 63
A Conceptual Failurep. 63
Distorted Economicsp. 66
Small-scale vs. large-scale fisheriesp. 71
Present vs. future generationsp. 73
Ineffective Governancep. 75
Local and national governancep. 76
International arrangementsp. 80
Fisheries compliance with international instrumentsp. 83
Institutions and Equityp. 89
4. What to Do?p. 91
Reducing Fishing Effortp. 94
Quotasp. 95
Vessel buyback and destructionp. 98
Marine reservesp. 99
Fishery benefitsp. 100
Using the precautionary approachp. 102
Transforming the Marketp. 104
Reducing subsidiesp. 104
Energy and/or carbon taxesp. 105
Educating consumersp. 106
Nonconsumptive use of the oceansp. 108
Accounting for future generationsp. 108
Transforming Governancep. 110
Dealing with illegal catchesp. 112
Reducing the scale of fishing fleetsp. 114
Recommendations: Leaning on the Firewall Between Science and Advocacyp. 116
Notesp. 121
Referencesp. 153
Acronymsp. 165
Indexp. 167