Fish capture technology encompasses the process of catching any aquatic animal, using any kind of fishing methods, often operated from a vessel. Use of fishing methods varies, depending on the types of fisheries, and can range from a simple and small hook attached to a line to large and sophisticated midwater trawls or purse seines operated by large fishing vessels. The targets of capture fisheries can include aquatic organisms from small invertebrates to large tunas and whales, which might be found anywhere from the ocean surface to 2 000 meters deep.
The large diversity of target species in capture fisheries and their wide distribution requires a variety of fishing gear and methods for efficient harvest. These technologies have developed around the world according to local traditions and, not least, technological advances in various diciplines.
In recent decades major improvements in fiber technology, along with the introduction of other modern materials, have made possible, for example, changes in the design and size of fishing nets. The mechanization of gear handling has vastly expanded the scale on which fishing operations can take place. Improved vessel and gear designs, using computer-aided design methods, have increased the general economics of fishing operations. The development of electronic instruments and fish detection equipment has led to the more rapid location of fish and the lowering of the unit costs of harvesting, particularly as this equipment becomes more widespread. Developments in refrigeration, ice-making and fish processing equipment have contributed to the design of vessels capable of remaining at sea for extended periods.
Although these technologies are largely available, those actually introduced in many small-scale fisheries may amount to no more than motorizing a dugout canoe, use of modern and lighter gear or introducing the use of iceboxes to ensure the quality of the product landed.
The impact of such changes, however, has considerably increased landings and the earnings of fishers, and underlines the need for effective management to prevent excessive fishing effort. The emphasis of much recent technical innovation has been focused on greater and more appropriate selectivity of fishing gear so as to reduce negative impacts on the environment.