Reconstructing historical baseline catches along Highway 101: U.S. West Coast marine fisheries, 1950–2017

Dirk Zeller, Matthew Ansell, Vania Andreoli, Haley Harguth, William Figueira, Darcy Dunstan, Lekelia D. Jenkins

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The United States of America, as most other countries, emphasizes commercial fisheries when reporting statistics to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and excludes data from other sectors, such as recreational fisheries. Our study is a first attempt to account comprehensively for all sources of total U.S. marine catches from the Exclusive Economic Zone waters along the West Coast of the continental USA from 1950 to 2017 in one dataset, i.e., excluding the states of Alaska and Hawaii. Total reconstructed catches for 1950–2017 were 1.2 times higher than the data reported by the USA to the FAO. Commercial landings dominated catches, with 65% from large-scale, industrial fisheries and 31% from small-scale, commercial fisheries. Recreational fisheries accounted for 4% of the total catch, after accounting for post-release mortality. Total catches were highest in 1950 at around 750,000 t and declined to 570,000 t by 2017. Internationally unreported discards increased from 24,000 t in 1950 to 86,000 t in 1989, but declined after the introduction of bycatch reduction devices to around 10,000 t year−1 by the mid-2010s. Total catches by taxonomic category suggest a decline in the diversity in catches. Levels of reporting for total catches is excellent for recent decades, with around 95% of total catches accounted for by the mid-2010s, but around 40% of catches were missing from data reported to the FAO between the late 1960s and early 1990s. This discrepancy was largely driven by industrial catches of North Pacific hake (Merluccius productus) that were not in the officially reported data. Our results suggest that recreational fisheries and discards can make up a considerable component of total catches over time. We suggest that the USA include their recreational catch estimates in their annual data submission to the FAO, retroactively to 1950.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101897
JournalRegional Studies in Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


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