Inland Fisheries

Overview of inland fisheries

Inland fisheries are any activity conducted to extract fish and other aquatic organisms from "inland waters".

[Source: Inland fisheries. FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries. No. 6. Rome, FAO. 1997. 36p.]

The term "inland waters" is used to refer to lakes, rivers, brooks, streams, ponds, inland canals, dams, and other land-locked (usually freshwater) waters (such as the Caspian Sea, Aral Sea, etc.). Whilst most inland  waters are freshwater( i.e. zero  salinity), there are many areas that are classified nationally as inland waters which have daily or seasonal fluctuations in  salinity (e.g. estuaries, deltas, some coastal lagoons). Some areas are permanently brackishwater (coastal lagoons, the Caspian Sea, Lake Van) or even hypersaline (e.g. The Utah Great Salt Lake). For fishery statistical reporting purposes,  the FAO Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics (CWP) decided that national authorities should determine the boundaries between marine and inland areas as appropriate to the national context.

Fisheries in inland waters have long provided an important source of food for mankind.  The global population now stands at 7.6 billion and is projected to rise to 9.7 billion people by 2050. Inland capture fisheries have an important role to play in the global challenge to sustainably feed this growing population, as they deliver quality nutrition to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations in a manner that is both accessible and affordable. Inland fisheries are critical for a group of developing countries in the world, providing an important source of nutrition, food security as well as micronutrients. These nutritional and food security benefits are an integral part of the agricultural landscape of these countries,  thus inland fisheries are closely linked to food production, water and land management, biodiversity and ecosystems.

Inland fisheries are also increasingly impacted and changed as countries develop their water and land resources for agriculture.  They are under increasing pressure and threats arising from far reaching changes to the aquatic environment arising from human activities such as damming, navigation, wetland reclamation for agriculture, urbanization, water extraction and transfer, and waste disposal.

FAO routinely reviews global  inland fisheries in its circular ”State of the World’s Fishery Resources: Inland fisheries (Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular 942). Other non-periodic reviews cover countries, sub-regions and river basins. FAO has also reviewed the impact of climate change on inland fisheries.