loading page

Distant-water industrial fishing in high diversity regions
  • Sam McClatchie
Sam McClatchie
FishOcean Enterprises

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile


High diversity of coastal fishes is found in Western Pacific, East Asian, Australasian, Southern African and Caribbean waters, while the greatest diversity of tunas and bill-fishes is found in Tasman Sea, Equatorial Pacific and Southern African waters. I used publicly available Global Fishing Watch data to map industrial fishing activity during 2018 in six broadly defined High Diversity Regions (HDRs): Western Pacific, Eastern Pacific, Southern Africa, Australasia, Tasman Sea and Central America. Automatic Identification System (AIS) metadata for vessels identified as fishing by Global Fishing Watch were used to partition fishing hours by vessel class and flag state. Drifting long-lines, tuna purse seines, squid jigging and trawling dominated AIS-inferred effort (vessel power X fishing hours) in different HDRs. Large numbers of fishing vessels are operating in High Diversity Regions. Based on AIS reporting, a minimum total of 2,276 registered drift longliners, 475 tuna purse seiners, 693 trawlers, and 340 squid jiggers were fishing in the six HDRs during 2018. The top three flagged countries account for 56 − 75% of drift longline activity, 89 − 99% of trawling, and 99% of squid jigging. There is a wide range of flagged countries fishing purse seines, with the top three accounting for only 33 − 56% of activity in the HDRs. East Asian fleets account for 99% of squid jigging, and 25 − 75% of drift longlining, but only 0 − 31% of purse seine and 0 − 12% of trawl fishing in High Diversity Regions. The Western Pacific and Southern African HDRs are subject to more fishing activity than other HDRs, and the most common fishing gear used is drift longlining. China and Taiwan have the largest number of registered drift longline vessels in these regions. Longline and purse seiner fleets had surrounded large Marine Protected Areas by 2018, indicating both successful exclusion, and the potential for encroachment of protected areas by industrial fleets. Real-time monitoring guiding targeted enforcement provides hope for protecting the High Diversity Regions of the world ocean from distant water fleets, which admittedly is only one of the threats that they face in a changing climate.