Fishing - History
Fishing has been around since the Stone Age, beginning when man first caught fish and shellfish in rivers and coastal waters. Pencil-shaped bone gorges were used as hooks and lengths of vine as lines. This was practiced by ancient Persian, Egyptians and Chinese. Archaeological material found in prehistoric Korea and China suggests fishing tools used there include bone fish-spears and shuttles and mussel-shell arrowheads. Fishing tool manufacture became more advanced in the Middle Ages and included tools made from stone as well as bone.
The development of fishing for sport and recreation is a comparatively recent activity and dates back to the late 15th century. Books on the art and philosophy of angling have been published since the early 16th century.
Commercial fishing has been practiced in many parts of the world throughout history but only recently on a scale which is unsustainable. Rich fisheries are found in the North Sea off the west coast of Great Britain, the continental shelf of Iceland, the Grand Banks off Eastern Canada, the Georges Banks off New England, off the south-western United States and Peru, in the Bering Sea, in the Gulf of Alaska, and off the coast of Japan. Disputes between these fisheries in modern times have generally been settled by arbitration or by treaties.
Overfishing was first recognised as an international problem as far back as the early 1900's. This problem was only confined to relatively few regions such as North Atlantic, North Pacific and the Mediterranean Sea.
After nearly half a century, many major fish stocks are depleted or in decline putting increased pressure on the fishing industry. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 60% of the world’s important fish stocks are in “urgent need of management” to “rehabilitate them” or “keep them from being overfished.”
Over the past 30 years there have been steep increases in the exploitation of world fisheries with more species being marketed and new fishing areas opened. Records from 1950 to 1994 show 35% of the most important commercial fish stocks demonstrated a pattern of declining yields. Another 25% of the steady yields are being fished at their biological limit and are vulnerable to depletion if fishing levels increase.