Trends in Indian Ocean marine fisheries since 1950: synthesis of reconstructed catch and effort data

Dirk Zeller, Matthew Ansell, Vania Andreoli, Kristina Heidrich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


Context: Contrary to other ocean basins, Indian Ocean catches have increased consistently since 1950, although reported data are known to be incomplete. Fish is a crucial food source in the Indian Ocean; however, ineffective management often empowers over-exploitation.

Aims: We synthesised and reviewed Indian Ocean reconstructed catch and effort data by fishing sector and fishing country at the ocean-basin scale.

Methods: We aggregated reported and reconstructed unreported catch and effort data for the Indian Ocean and derived catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) time-series by sector.

Key results: Indian Ocean rim country catches dominated in the Indian Ocean. Small-scale catches in the Indian Ocean have grown continuously by over 300% from 1.9 × 106 tonnes (Mg) year−1 in 1950 to 6.5 × 106 tonnes year−1 by 2018. By contrast, total industrial catches from the Indian Ocean have reached a plateau at ~8.5 × 106 tonnes year−1 since the late 1990s, after having steadily risen from very low levels in the early 1960s. Unreported catches declined from 45 to 25% of total catches. Total fishing effort, driven by the industrial sector, has increased 30-fold since 1950 from 0.4 × 109 to 11 × 109 kW-days by 2010, whereas CPUE has declined 78%, with steeper declines in the small-scale (>80% since 1950) than in the industrial sector (65% from its 1981 peak).

Conclusions: The different sectoral patterns in the Indian Ocean compared with other ocean basins are likely to be due to the region’s high dependence on small-scale fisheries and the later onset but swift growth of industrial fishing. The declining CPUE suggests strong decreases in stock biomass caused by strongly increasing fishing effort, especially in the industrial sector.

Implications: Indian Ocean countries should prioritise lower-impact well-managed domestic small-scale fisheries to maximise long-term, sustainable nutrient supply for local livelihoods.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-319
JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2023


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