Research ArticleENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

High seas fisheries play a negligible role in addressing global food security

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Science Advances  08 Aug 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 8, eaat8351
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat8351

Abstract

Recent international negotiations have highlighted the need to protect marine diversity on the high seas—the ocean area beyond national jurisdiction. However, restricting fishing access on the high seas raises many concerns, including how such restrictions would affect food security. We analyze high seas catches and trade data to determine the contribution of the high seas catch to global seafood production, the main species caught on the high seas, and the primary markets where these species are sold. By volume, the total catch from the high seas accounts for 4.2% of annual marine capture fisheries production and 2.4% of total seafood production, including freshwater fisheries and aquaculture. Thirty-nine fish and invertebrate species account for 99.5% of the high seas targeted catch, but only one species, Antarctic toothfish, is caught exclusively on the high seas. The remaining catch, which is caught both on the high seas and in national jurisdictions, is made up primarily of tunas, billfishes, small pelagic fishes, pelagic squids, toothfish, and krill. Most high seas species are destined for upscale food and supplement markets in developed, food-secure countries, such as Japan, the European Union, and the United States, suggesting that, in aggregate, high seas fisheries play a negligible role in ensuring global food security.

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