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Thematic lectures

Interactions between capture fisheries and aquaculture

Stefano Cataudella*, Fabio Massa#, Donatella Crosetti°

* University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Laboratory of Experimental Ecology and Aquaculture, Via di Passolombardo 430, 00133 Rome, Italy

# FAO-AdriaMed Corso Umberto I, 30–86039 Termoli (CB), Italy

° ICRAM Via di Casalotti 300, 00166 Rome, Italy


Interactions between aquaculture and capture fisheries are analysed in this document. The increasing relevance of aquaculture at institutional level is underlined with reference mainly to the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. A series of issues are addressed for further discussion and emphasis was put on the sustainable development. The interactions generating conflicts and mutual benefits should be taken into consideration for a sustainable development. In the light of the Code of Conduct, it is suggested that interactions should be reviewed using a systemic approach, including ecological, economic, legal and governance dimensions. Finally the positive interactions (mutual benefits) between capture fisheries and aquaculture could be used within the group of indicators to evaluate the sustainability in the framework of aquatic organisms production.

1. Introduction

This paper analyses some interactions between capture fisheries and aquaculture. The contents of the topics discussed here are not original as the aim of this presentation was to enrich a general discussion in this AdriaMed Expert Consultation1. Emphasis are taken on some selected points (Codes of Conduct of Responsible Fisheries (CCRF, FAO, 1995), scientific and production context, sustainable development) rather than presenting an exhaustive overall report. Different interactions are briefly commented on, without going into the methodology in any great detail, by discussing a series of still open questions on several neglected subjects.

Aquatic products for direct and indirect human consumption have two origins: capture fisheries and aquaculture. In general terms, these two activities are different forms of man interventions in the life cycle and the harvest of living aquatic organisms, similar to the hunting and husbandry of terrestrial animals and plants. Many people assume that fishing and farming are equal partners in the same food-producing system: however, there are many specific interactions between the two sectors, which in some case have become serious issues.

Before identifying the interactions between capture fisheries and aquaculture, it is important to consider space and time dimension related to these activities. First, water covers more of the earth surface than land does, and contiguity is one of the most evident properties of aquatic ecosystems. This implies close integration of different uses and users, both locally and globally. Second, both capture fishery and aquaculture have evolved in a very short time: it took only 60 years for the modern fishing sector and only 30 years for modern aquaculture to develop into a mature sector.

Discussions on interactions between capture fisheries and aquaculture have only recently begun. At present, most of these interactions occur within marine and coastal ecosystems. On the contrary, there are many examples in continental ecosystems where most potential interactions have already been settled by close integration of capture fisheries and aquaculture (De Silva et al., 2003). However most of the successful productions obtained, especially due to species introduction in inland waters, should be reviewed within the recent developments of the Convention on Biodiversity contents (Watson et al., 1995).

The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (FAO, 1995) defined the global framework in which capture fisheries and aquaculture were to be considered parts of the same productive system. The presence of these two different activities in the same “container” should be considered as the beginning of a new vision.

Interactions between capture fisheries and aquaculture should therefore be studied and discussed as soon as possible, before they become conflicts which may reduce competitiveness within either industry, or prevent new economic sustainable growth. Aquaculture has been defined as: “the farming of aquatic organisms, including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated… …aquatic organisms which are harvested by an individual or corporate body which has owned them throughout their rearing period contribute to aquaculture, while aquatic organisms which are exploitable by the public as a common property resources, with or without licence, are the harvest of fisheries.“ (FAO, 1992). However, some grey areas remain, and the definition between fishing and aquaculture will be sharpened as knowledge improves.

Geography and history support the hypothesis that aquaculture originated in these “grey areas”. The physical confinement of portions of aquatic environments, due to natural events or human interventions, led to the development of aquaculture in primitive societies, also after the development of water bodies ownership, as for land for agriculture.

The evolution process of aquaculture may have been regulated by three major elements: confinement of aquatic areas, resistance of some fish species to natural environmental stress (extreme ecological conditions, handling, etc.), human interest for fish. The challenge of controlling fish production certainly assumed both a practical and a symbolic value. The origin of aquaculture, apart from its cultural significance, is of particular importance when its relationship with capture fisheries is considered.

An exhaustive classification of various fishery practices divided into capture fisheries and aquaculture is proposed by Welcomme (1997), (Figure 1).

Stocked lakes and reservoir  
-with other enhancement (predator, control and/or fertilization, habitat modifications)* 
-no other invention **
Unstocked lakes an reservoirs  
-with enhancement (fertilization and/or predator control, habitat modifications)* 
-no enhancement **
Ranching of anadromous fish **
Fish and crustaceans caught in open waters **
Privately owned recreational fisheries **
Fish and other animal harvested from brush parks  
-managed over time and with other enhancement **
-harvested on an install and harvest basis* 
Fish and other animals harvested from  
-fish aggregating devices **
-artificial reef **
-subject to open fishery **
-from owned and managed grow-out site* 
Enhanced marine fisheries **
Harvest of natural seaweed beds **
Harvest of planted and suspended seaweed* 
Rice-field culture  
-from stocked rice-paddy* 
-from unstocked rice-paddy **
Lagoon (including vallicoltura) production* 
Private, tidal ponds (tambaks)* 

Figure 1. The classification of various fishery practices divided into capture fisheries and aquaculture as proposed by Welcomme (1997).

2. The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the increasing institutional relevance of aquaculture

Annex 1 of the CCRF provides clear information on the origin, elaboration and negotiation of the Code, which recognised the nutritional, economic, social, environmental, and cultural importance of both capture fisheries and aquaculture.

The CCRF does not represent the point of view of a group of FAO experts, but of the countries's. After its approval, it became a common and useful tool for all States, for both Governmental or Non-Governmental International Organisations, and for all those involved in fisheries at world-wide level.

On October, 31st, 1995, the twenty-eighth session of the FAO Conference adopted by consensus the CCRF with the respective resolution reported in Annex 2. In its introduction, the Code includes aquaculture in the Fisheries system. It recognises the role of these activities in providing “… a vital source of food, employment, recreation, trade and economic of well being for people, employment throughout the world, both for present and future generations ”. Aquaculture development is considered in Article 9, including culture based fisheries.

Particular emphasis is placed on the risk of impact on biodiversity at different levels, particularly within transboundary aquatic ecosystems. The impact of farm escapees on wild stocks is one of the most evident interactions that imply a direct effect of aquaculture on capture fisheries.

The presence of a specific article in the CCRF which deals with aquaculture is of particular significance and marks an important step forward in the systemic treatment of fisheries. In the past, aquaculture has always been considered a marginal area of fisheries, as it is similar in environment or market point of view. At present the exponential growth of aquaculture, with an increase of 9.2 %/year from 1970 (FAO, 2002), has led to a review of the role of aquaculture as animal production. Aquaculture fast development and the effects of the contents of Article 9 gave to this activity a renewed role within the global fisheries system.

In 2001, the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) established a sub-committee on aquaculture, that held its two first sessions in Beijing (China, 2002) and Trodheim (Norway, 2003).

The 24th session of COFI recognised “the increasingly important role that aquaculture was playing in global fish production, and food security by providing opportunities for economic development in Member States“ (FAO, 2001), and raised the issues of integrations between aquaculture and capture fisheries, caused by aquaculture development.

The Reykjavik Declaration on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem (2001) addressed the issue of introducing more ecosystem considerations into conventional fisheries management and recognises “ the complex interrelationship and the other components of the marine ecosystems ”. In particular the Declaration calls for, inter alia, the monitoring of interactions between fisheries and aquaculture.

3. The scientific context

As early as 1864, the Norwegian government asked Georg Ossian Sars to establish why cod catches from Lofoten Islands fluctuated so greatly. Within twenty years, Norway had established a scientific agency to study fluctuations in its fisheries and many other nations soon joined Norway. Throughout the 1880s and the 1890s, many conferences were held, aimed at promoting co-operation between European countries.

The opening meeting of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, held in Copenhagen in July 1902, paved the way to future co-operative programmes on fish migration and overfishing. At the beginning of the twentieth century, overfishing was already recognised as a management problem in living aquatic resources. Under the terms “fishery science”, “fishery biology” and “fish population dynamics” a series of both biological methods and mathematical models were set up. Fishery scientists first developed an autonomous body, creating opportunities for constructive collaboration between biology and mathematics. The focus of these studies has continually shifted between the immediate need to predict catches, and the longer term need to understand the population and ecological mechanisms that limit them. Thanks to an applied interdisciplinary approach, fishery science and related theories have largely contributed to the development of important ecological theories. Relationships between policy and fishery science have been frequent and sometimes contradictory: the decision making process needed, and still needs, strong scientific support, especially in problems identification, whereas in the problems solving phase, final decisions require a compromise between science and policy. Fishermen have not always been satisfied with scientists's answers or points of view on fisheries management.

Aquaculture as an autonomous discipline developed more recently, with several fundamental and applied sciences playing an important part. As in agricultural sciences, development depends on knowledge from different fields, ranging from biology to engineering. Most of the practical results obtained came from a mix of scientific and “trial-and-error” approach. Research scientists in aquaculture work closely with farmers, and sometime take the same stand against public decisions. However, during the last two decades, the consciousness of environmental impacts from aquaculture created a generation of research scientists in conflict with fish farmers.

Fisheries research originated from a public need to generate appropriate tools for managing common goods. Aquaculture research grew to support producers, using science as accelerator, especially in the last three decades. For many years, fishery science and aquaculture development did not interact: for instance, often fishery scientists did not include the development of a responsible aquaculture in the measures required to rehabilitate degraded areas which had been overharvested.

The fundaments of the Sustainable Development theory produced a much more open vision (UNCED, 1992). An interactive effort was needed, with all the different subjects from different backgrounds involved, avoiding preconceptions of disciplinary origin that could delay the resolving of new questions.

The Rome Consensus on World Fisheries signed in FAO (1995) by the Ministers responsible for Fisheries of most countries of the world recognised that action was urgently required to:

  1. eliminate overfishing and prevent further resource decline;
  2. reduce overcapacity;
  3. rehabilitate productive habitats;
  4. minimise wasteful practices and post-harvest losses;
  5. develop sustainable aquaculture and stock enhancement;
  6. develop alternative sustainable source of supply compatible with ecosystem conservation.

Within these recommendations, the interactions between fisheries and aquaculture at scientific level are still not considered adequately. The development of systemic sciences, such as ecology and economics, increased the possibility of a constructive relationship between marine fisheries and aquaculture scientists. The need to solve problems in the same environment, and the presence of fished and farmed goods in the same market, led to the merging of activities and scientific interests which had been traditionally separated. For instance, research programmes on inland fisheries or on coastal lagoon management are fields in which aquaculture and fishery science have a long tradition of collaboration. This division was frequently due to personal academic preconceptions which often hampered progress in research institutes, international agencies and public administrations, causing a delay in the realisation of a common programme of fishery science and sciences involved in aquaculture. Research scientists in the past have sometimes sustained negative policies which have slowed down responsible aquaculture development, or were considered as prophets-of-doom when declaring that fishing is in an irreversible and rapid decline. What is really important is the identification of common grounds where several sciences can work together in an attempt to discover how the entire system works.

4. The production context

The main interaction between capture fisheries and aquaculture is to join efforts in providing high quality food for mankind in a sustainable way. Reading The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2002 and updating the figures with the available statistics 2001, it is possible to have an immediate look of the diversified annual growth rate that justifies the importance assumed by aquaculture. In 2001 global capture fisheries amounted to 91,3 million tonnes and world aquaculture production reached 37,5 million tonnes (Figure 2–3, FAO, 2002).

The increasing role of aquaculture in world fisheries has been recognised worldwide(NACA/FAO, 2000; Flos and Cresswell, 2000; Subasinghe, 2003; Tacon, 2003) proving general considerations based on FAO statistics on quantities and values.

The possibility for aquaculture to meet the world demand of fisheries products is conditioned by many factors (Pedini, 1999): population growth by region, potential production increase from capture fisheries and from aquaculture, access and use of natural resources (land and water) for aquaculture production,government development policies and technological development impact.

Figure 2

Figure 2. World capture fisheries and aquaculture production: 1950–2001 (Source FAO-2002).

Figure 3

Figure 3. World capture fisheries and aquaculture production: 1984–2001 (Source FAO-2002).

Interactions between different stakeholders of common resources must be expected as a part of any industrial growth and modernisation. New generations are faced with problems of population growth and the prospects of diminishing food safety and life quality. New models for sustainable fisheries, including aquaculture, are trying to anticipate the problems of over-population by taking into account the different needs for the so-called developing and developed countries at both local and global level, fisheries resources overexploitation, and to implement the Code of Conduct of Responsible Fisheries in new fisheries policies at both national and international level.

In the present paper all interactions have been divided into two main families defined as old and new. Old interactions are issues generated by: the introduction of exotic species; the need for stocking programmes; the ownership of resources and of confined environments; the use of wild seed to supply aquaculture and the use of fishery products to supply the fish feed farming industry. New interactions are issues concerning: stocking and restocking models; the genetic origin of cultured organisms; biodiversity conservation and value; genetic improvement through breeding programmes and genetic engineering; aquaculture development in sensitive environments; direct impact of farmed products on markets and prices; the growing role assumed by aquaculture in meeting the additional demand for fishery products; product quality and labelling; capture fisheries and aquaculture within a sustainable system approach.

The recently originated new interactions are due to the growth of environmental concerns at both public and NGO level, the private sector has only recently become an active component in the interaction system. Fishermen and aquaculturists have been traditionally involved in conflicts regarding space use, but today conflicts on market issues are becoming more frequent. These have been generated by the increased production of some aquaculture species, which are still also captured in the wild. In this respect is the case of farm salmon product increase that has impacted the fishing industry and “outcompeted” fishery salmon (Eagle et al., 2004). The market generated by farmed species could also impact on other wild species in addition to cultured ones, as in the case of shrimp culture (Benè et al., 2000).

New interactions involve new specific principles, including ethical, cultural, social, economical, biological and environmental aspects. Among the former is an unexpected impact of aquaculture on biodiversity. One of the characteristics of aquaculture is the use of many different species, whereas terrestrial animal husbandry domesticated and selected a number of races from only a few species. The number of aquaculture species has increased annually: more then 210 different animal and plant species were reported in 2000 (FAO, 2002).The development of fish genetics and fish ecology highlighted the negative impact of many interventions carried out to produce, which were positively considered in the past.

Pullin, Bartley and Kooiman (1999) provided a revision of the major issues to be addressed for the formulation and implementation of more effective policies in this area, considering that the policies for the conservation and sustainable use of aquatic genetic resources are poorly developed.

Welcomme and Bartley (1998) described the current approaches to fisheries enhancement, comparing the contrasting strategies for inland fisheries management in developing and developed countries.

In developing countries, provision of food, income, labour-intensive, etc. are the most important issues for fisheries enhancement, whereas in developed country conservation, habitat restoration, sound environmental restocking seems to be the priorities. These differences opened a series of complex political issues, already known in other sectors, such as forest conservation for instance. We have to face the real differences that could modify different perspectives of aquaculture role in world fisheries, otherwise the gaps between advanced and in-transition economies will increase. The distance that separates temperate and tropical areas of the world could delay future debates on who will be responsible for biodiversity decline in future development strategies. This problem already exists today in areas where States with different economic conditions share the same water bodies (Art 9.2 of the CCRF referred to the “Responsible development of aquaculture including culture based fisheries within transboundary aquatic ecosystems”). In this scenario, the adaptation of the CCRF without reducing its principle values should be an imperative issue.

One major aspect of aquaculture which concerns fishery managers is the effect escapees from fish farms might have on native stocks. Much of the research has involved salmonid fish, especially Atlantic salmon and brown trout in Europe (Gross, 1998; Vandeputte and Prunet, 2002; Wang et al., 2001; Youngson, et al., 2003).

The forecast of future aquaculture in a different perspective could use the genetic impacts of fish produced in hatcheries as a milestone. In this framework, new challenges for scientists and producers should be faced. If the genetic effects and the spread of disease and parasites caused by farmed fish introduction must be controlled, restocking programmes will consequently need wild-like seed, i.e. hatchery produced fry with biological characteristics similar to wild fish. This could also represent a new commercial competitive opportunity for hatchery productions, where the effort of science and technology in creating innovative procedures for producing wild-like fish will be economically convenient within sustainable aquaculture practices.

In the Mediterranean, differences between cultured and wild gilthead sea bream and sea bass juveniles have been detected in the last ten years (Loy et al., 1999; Boglione et al., 2001). The use of extensive larval rearing techniques that simulate the conditions of wild nurseries enabled the production of juveniles with a morphology and a behaviour which are similar to wild specimens. This is particularly important today, when the demand of seed for restocking coastal lagoons has increased, but the availability of wild fry has drastically decreased.

Within the production of 450 million marine fin-fish fry (mostly sea bass and sea bream) in the Mediterranean, there is a specific demand for wild-like fry for the Vallicultura practice. A “wild-like” fry label is in preparation, using different kinds of descriptors within research programmes aimed at producing marine fish larval quality systems for restocking. The application of large marine enclosures for early life history studies revealed important information for rearing methods. Traditional induced spawning practices developed during the 70s and 80s to rear Atlantic cod, turbot, Atlantic halibut, gilthead sea bream and sea bass, should be reconsidered to help adapting aquaculture to specific fisheries enhancement and intensification supports.

The use of wild-like fry for restocking purposes does not solve the problems related to unintentional or accidental release of cultured organisms in the wild caused by escape events from culture farms. These problems are enhanced by several factors such as the continuity of aquatic ecosystems, the number of operating farms, and the high mobility of many farmed aquatic species.

Hindar and Jonsson (1992) summarised a list of recommendations aimed at reducing the effects of cultured fish on wild fish. The need to produce selected aquaculture strains and GMOs leads to another crucial issue. On the one hand, stands the awareness of the crucial importance of producing aquatic organisms for human consumption, using the best available technology, selecting genomes, manipulating genes, following the same pathway paved by other agriculture activities in the modernisation process. On the other hand, ethical problems, such as equity and solidarity, must be conceptually faced.

In considerations of all the aspects highlighted above, something should be reinvented in the productive context when looking for the new economic opportunities that sustainability brings. The following actions are therefore suggested:

5. Interactions and sustainable development

The concept of sustainable development and its application to fisheries is well discussed in the FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries n.8 (1999) (Figure 4). Sustainable development is “simply” development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The same Technical Guidelines report that: “… Sustainable development of fisheries will require improved governance and changes in the perspective of the main stakeholders to focus to more on long-term outcomes. This would require:

In this framework, aquaculture could be considered in many ways. First, as one of the many activities which must to be integrated with fisheries as a part of coastal zone management. Second,as one of the land-based activities to be controlled in order to prevent the degradation of marine environment. Third, as an opportunity to reduce the effect of overfishing of many stocks through the alternative supply of fish products. Fourth, as an activity whose Sustainable Development requires strong integration among the different components of the fisheries system.

Finally, more attention should be given to the role of aquaculture within the sustainable development of fisheries, especially if aquaculture meets the additional demand for fishery products (in 2001 aquaculture provided 29,1 percent of the world fish supply).

Harvest value
Fisheries contribution to GDP
Fisheries exports value (compared with total value of exports)
Investment in fishing fleets and processing facilities
Taxes and subsidies
Fishery net revenues
Protein/ consumption
Fishing tradition/culture
Gender distribution in decision-making
EcologicalCatch structure
Relative abundance of target species
Exploitation rate
Direct effects of fishing gear on non-target species
Indirect effects of fishing: trophic structure
Direct effects of gear on habitats
Biodiversity (species)
Change in area and quality of important or critical habitats
Fishing pressure - fished vs. unfished area
GovernanceCompliance regime
Property rights
Transparency and participation
Capacity to manage

Figure 4. Examples of criteria for the main dimensions of sustainable development (FAO, 1999).

Rao (2000) discussed marine fisheries in his comprehensive book on Sustainable Development economics and policy, in the chapter dealing with resources and environment. He sustained that fish remains among the most desirable food items for nutritional and health value, and that the critical situation of many fish stocks could worsen malnutrition in several poor countries. A series of possible interventions aimed at reaching harvesting sustainability are listed, but aquaculture is never considered as an opportunity to be integrated in a global vision toward sustainable fisheries.

The philosophy behind sustainable development models should consider the different interactions that generate conflicts and mutual benefits. Good interactions with a “responsible aquaculture” could alleviate the fishery crisis. FAO (1999) proposed the development and the use of indicators for the sustainable development of marine capture fisheries: “ The purpose of indicators is to enhance communication, transparency, effectiveness and accountability in natural resource management.

The FAO Guidelines are the first synthesis which highlight this matter. In this framework, considerations on the interactions between capture fisheries and aquaculture should be made. The following considerations are limited to the interactions that should be considered from both fishing and farming. The examples of criteria for the main dimensions of Sustainable Development, selected in the framework of SDRS (Sustainable Development Reference System) for fisheries, are reported in Figure 4: with indications of all those which directly or indirectly interact with aquaculture. The scaling of indicators and value judgements should consider the nature of the interactions that occur between farming and fishing, especially for coastal fisheries.

Eco-labelling will be another important issue that sustainable fisheries should face: “… Eco-labelling schemes are increasingly perceived as a way simultaneously to maintain the productivity and economic value of fisheries while providing incentives for improved fisheries management and the conservation of marine biodiversity. ” Mandatory eco-labels could generate barriers causing trade restriction and conflicts between fishery and aquaculture products, whereas voluntary eco-labels may be a new tool for increasing the role of producers Associations.

6. Issues to be discussed

  1. For adoption and application of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, including aquaculture, interactions causing conflicts between capture fisheries and aquaculture must be investigated and resolved.
  2. Any investigation and analysis should take into consideration the traditional (old) interactions which, for the most part, encouraged fishery enhancement practices.
  3. In the light of the CCRF, interactions should be considered and reviewed from all sides, using a systemic approach. This would include both environmental and marketing consequences, which frequently provide more fertile ground for realistic discussion in the disputes between capture fisheries and aquaculture.
  4. Scientists and technologists from the range of disciplines relevant to both capture fisheries and aquaculture must be prepared to present facts to enable the process for risks evaluation, a process in which both fishermen and fish farmers will give an active contribution.
  5. Interactions (mutual benefits) between capture fisheries and aquaculture should be considered as indicators of sustainable production of aquatic organisms. However, indicators are not a target, but tools to help any decision-making process, and are useful in that they can be adapted to local conditions and continuously updated through the active participation of all stakeholders.
  6. The importance of aquaculture in global fish supplies cannot be evaluated simply by comparing its growth with the decline of many exploited stocks in the principal fishing areas of the world. To respect the principles of the CCRF, the different roles of capture fisheries and aquaculture should be expressed fairly, with emphasis placed on their potential for co-operative development, and the application of their appropriate tools to improve the different markets, economies, and cultures.
  7. Policies to meet the demand on coastal areas for multiple use should consider the different economic and environmental benefits which capture fisheries and aquaculture can provide together, especially in the increasing demands for high quality seafood and open space for tourism. The integration level between capture fisheries and aquaculture is a reliable indicator of the political and institutional impact on sustainable fisheries within coastal zone management.
  8. All stakeholders in aquatic ecosystems, whether public or private, should do more to discuss and solve real and potential conflicts between capture fisheries and aquaculture, and to actively participate in the building of a common future.
  9. Fisheries and aquaculture scientists should work together to avoid any irreversible damage to the marine environment. The presence of fishermen and fish farmers in all aquatic environments of the world, particularly in small-scale coastal communities, could be exploited in new environment conservation projects.

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Welcomme R.L. (1997) World inland fisheries and aquaculture - changing attitudes to Management. In: ”Developing and sustaining world fisheries resources - The state of science and management. ” (Hancock D.A., Smith D.C., Grant A., Beumer J.P., eds.) Collingwood Australia, CSIRO, pp. 767–771.

Welcomme,-R.L. & Bartley,-D.M. (1998) Current approaches to the enhancement of fisheries. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 5: 351–382.

Youngson, A.F., W.C. Jordan W.C, E. Verspoor E., T. Cross T. & A. Ferguson A. (2003) Management of salmonid fisheries in the British Isles: towards a practical approach based on population genetics. Fisheries Research 62: 193–209.

1 This paper represents the introduction document of FAO-AdriaMed Export Consultation on “Interactions between capture fisheries and aquaculture”, held in Rome, November 9–12, 2003.

Adriatic Sea fisheries: outline of some main facts

Piero Mannini*, Fabio Massa and Nicoletta Milone

* FAO-AdriaMed. Corso Umberto I, 30 – 86039 Termoli (CB) Italy; Email: [email protected]


Following a brief introduction to some principal characteristics of the Adriatic Sea, the paper focuses on two main aspects of Adriatic Sea fisheries: fishery production and the fishing fleet. The evolution of capture fisheries landings over thirty years (1970–2000) is outlined: demersal and pelagic fishery production is compared and the quantities landed of some key shared stocks are described. The evolution of the Adriatic fishing fleet is reported in terms of number of fishing units, length category and fishing technique. The importance of basic reliable, comparable and easily integrated statistics is underlined; in the case of Adriatic shared fisheries the need for international cooperation is fundamental together with increased multidisciplinary analysis for the management of shared fishery stocks for the achievement of effective sub-regional fishery management.

1. Brief introduction to the Adriatic Sea

The Adriatic Sea is a semi-enclosed1 basin within the larger semi-enclosed sea constituted by the Mediterranean, it extends over 138000 km2(Buljan and Zore-Armanda, 1976) it may be seen as characterised by Northern, Central and Southern sub-basins with decreasing depth from the south toward the north. Along the longitudinal axis of the Adriatic geomorphological and ecological changes can be observed, resulting in the remarkable differences of the northern and southern ends.Six countries, whose coastline development differs greatly, border the Adriatic. Some key-features of Adriatic coastal states for which marine fisheries are relevant are given in Table 1.

The Adriatic is characterised by the largest shelf area of the Mediterranean, which extends over the Northern and Central parts where the bottom depth is no more than about 75 and 100 m respectively, with the exception of the Pomo/Jabuka Pit (200–260 m) in the Central Adriatic. The Southern Adriatic has a relatively narrow continental shelf and a marked, steep slope; it reaches the maximum depth of 1223 m (Figure 1).

In the Adriatic Sea all types of bottom sediments are found, muddy bottoms are mostly below a depth of 100 m, while in the Central and Northern Adriatic the shallower sea bed is characterised by relict sand (Alfirević, 1981). The Eastern and Western coasts are very different; the former is high, rocky and articulated with many islands, the Western coast is flat and alluvional with raised terraces in some areas (Bombace, 1990).

The hydrography of the region is characterised by water inflow from the Eastern Mediterranean (entering from the Otranto channel along the Eastern Adriatic coast) and fresh water runoff from Italian rivers. These features seasonally produce both latitudinal and longitudinal gradients in hydrographic characteristics along the basin (Buljan and Zore-Armanda, 1979; Artegiani et al., 1981).

Table 1. Some data on Adriatic coastal states participating in AdriaMed.

Coastline* (km)The total length of the boundary between the land area (including islands) and the sea.3625835 (mainland 1777 km, islands 4058 km)7600 (inclusive of Ionian and Tyrrhenian coastline)19947
Population* (July 2002 est.) 3 544 8414 390 75157 715 62510 656 9291 930 132
Population growth rate*Annual population growth rate.1.06%
(2002 est.)
(2002 est.)
(2002 est.)
(2002 est.)
(2001 est.)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP - real growth rate)*Measure of the economy of a country; the total market values of goods and services produced and capital within the country borders during a given period.7.3%
(2001 est.)
(2001 est.)
(2001 est.)
(2002 est.)
(2000 est.)
Education index, 1999 **Based on the adult literacy rate and the combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratio.0.800.880.94n.a.0.94
Human development index (HDI) value, 1999 **A composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development-a long and healthy life, education and knowledge and an acceptable standard of living.0.720.800.90n.a.0.87
Urban population (as % of total) 1999 **The mid-year population of areas defined as urban in each country, as reported to the United Nations.4157.366.9n.a.50.3
Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) 1999 **The probability of dying between birth and exactly one year of age expressed per 1,000 live births.298617 *5
Diffusion of recent innovations: Internet hosts (per 1,000 people) **A computer system connected to the Internet0.16.730.4n.a.20.3
Personal computers (per 1,000 people) *** 8
(2001 est.)
(2001 est.)
(2001 est.)
(2000 est.)
(2001 est.)
Agriculture, value added (% of GDP) ***Agriculture corresponds to International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) divisions 1–5 and includes forestry, hunting and fishing, as well as cultivation of crops and livestock production. The net output of the agriculture sector after adding up all outputs and subtracting intermediate inputs.31
(2001 est.)
(2001 est.)
(2001 est.)
(2000 est.)
(2001 est.)
Industry, value added (% of GDP) ***Industry corresponds to ISIC divisions 10–45. It comprises value added in mining, construction, electricity, water, and gas.23
(2001 est.)
(2001 est.)
(2001 est.)
(2000 est.)
(2001 est.)
Services, etc., value added (% of GDP) ***Services correspond to ISIC divisions 50–99 and they include value added in wholesale and retail trade (including hotels and restaurants), transport and government, financial, professional and personal services such as education, health care and real estate services.42
(2001 est.)
(2001 est.)
(2001 est.)
(2002 est.)
(2001 est.)
Per caput fish supply (Kg/year, 1997–99)****Data should be regarded as giving only an order of magnitude indication of consumption levels.2.04.321.92.76.7

*The CIA World Fact-book: Web 2002 Edition (public domain) --- ---
**UNDP. Human Development Report ---
***The World Bank ---
**** FAO Yearbook of Fishery Statistics - 2001 ---

Geo-morphological characteristics of the Adriatic basin, geo-political changes along the Eastern coast, existing national statistical divisions and fishery resource distribution have led to the identification of the two Geographical Sub-Areas (GSA) as shown in Figure 2. Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy and Slovenia border the GSA 17 (North and Central Adriatic), Albania, Italy (South-Eastern coast) and Serbia and Montenegro are included in the GSA 18 (AdriaMed, 2001; GFCM, 2001).

Figure 1

Figure 1. Adriatic Sea bathymetry (from Fonda Umani et al., 1990).

The presence of the characteristics of a semi-enclosed sea as defined in Article 122 of the 1982 UNCLOS(United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) make the Adriatic a particularly suitable case to meet the provisions contained in Part IX (Article 23) of UNCLOS on cooperation of coastal states in enclosed or semi-enclosed seas (Sersic, 1992).

Finally, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (as formulated by FAO in 1995) in coherence with UNCLOS and accounting for the Declaration of Cancun (1992), the Rio Declaration (1992), the provisions of the Agenda 21 of UNCED, the 1992 FAO Technical Consultation on High Sea Fishing, the 1984 FAO World Conference on Fisheries Management and Development and other relevant international fisheries instruments (FAO and UN, 1998), further emphasizes the necessity, when in presence of shared stocks, for coastal states to cooperate for fisheries research and management.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Map showing the boundaries of the Adriatic Sea Geographical Sub-areas 17 and 18 (formerly Geographical Management Units 37.2.1.a and 37.2.2.b) as originally indicated by the GFCM (solid line) and with the proposed (and currently adopted) revision (modified by AdriaMed, 2001).

2. Fishery production over time (1970–2000)

Recently the issue of shared fishery stocks in the Mediterranean has gained particular attention within international bodies such as the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), its Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and the European Commission (EC). For instance, areas in the Mediterranean where shared stocks are reported or believed to occur are indicated in the EC Communication COM 535 (2002). It may be noted that with the exception of highly migratory stocks that are shared over the most of the Mediterranean, the Adriatic Sea is one of the largest areas of occurrence of demersal and small pelagic shared stocks in the Mediterranean.

Evidence of the transboundary and straddling nature of some important stocks may be drawn from the geographical occurrence pattern in late spring and early summer of the European hake (Merluccius merluccius) and Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) which are high-value stocks targeted by the Adriatic demersal fishery (Figure 3a, 3b).

Figure 3a

Figure 3a. Distribution of M. merluccius in the Adriatic Sea: indicator kriging representation (Gramolini et al., in press). Data: Medits Programme.

Figure 3b

Figures 3b. Distribution of N. norvegicus in the Adriatic Sea: indicator kriging representation (Gramolini et al., in press). Data: Medits Programme.

The most important demersal and small pelagic commercial species whose stocks are shared in the Adriatic were identified and agreed upon by regional experts convened by AdriaMed (AdriaMed, 2000; Mannini et al., 2001). The recognition of the shared-stock status of the priority species (Table 2) was subsequently proposed to the national management authorities of the AdriaMed member countries (Albania, Croatia, Italy and Slovenia), and then endorsed at the 28th Session of the GFCM (GFCM, 2003).

The overview of capture fisheries landing trends from the Adriatic over thirty years (1970–2000) roughly outlines the fisheries production performance of the region. Data are from the open-access FAO statistics as compiled in the Fishstat Plus version 2.3(FAO 2001). Nominal landing figures are provided to FAO by member states and their reliability, which can differ greatly between countries and regions, cannot be easily assessed.

Therefore, caution needs to be exercised when considering trends in fisheries landing. It is important to note that the following main factors may be behind apparent landing trends: changes in the level of accuracy of fishery statistics reporting, trends in fishing intensity on the species in question, environmental trends in the productivity of the system, socio-economic factors affecting relative demand or accessibility of the species concerned.

Table 2. Relevant common species whose stocks are shared by at least two Adriatic countries (from AdriaMed Technical Documents N. 2 and 3).

SpeciesArea of Occurrence
Adriatic Sea basinsNorthern AdriaticCentral AdriaticSouthern Adriatic
Geographical Sub-area1718
Eledone cirrhosa 
Eledone moschata
Loligo vulgaris
Lophius budegassa
Lophius piscatorius 
Merlangus merlangus 
Merluccius merluccius
Mullus barbatus
Nephrops norvegicus
Pagellus erythrinus
Parapeneus longirostris 
Sepia officinalis
Solea vulgaris
Engraulis encrasicolus
Sardina pilchardus
Sprattus sprattus 
Scomber scomber

●:common occurrence;
○: scarce; blank: negligible.

Underestimation of quantities landed is a common problem affecting the available statistics to an often unknown extent. For instance, and as an extreme case, according to a field interview survey conducted in Montenegro, it would appear that this country's landing statistics in recent years were underestimated by a factor of six (Regner, 2002). Nevertheless, although landing figures are likely to be (sometimes largely) underestimated in many cases, it can be reasonably assumed that overall, major trend patterns in fisheries landings are reflected in the time series. During the thirty-year period under consideration (1970–2000) the total landings of the Adriatic commercial capture fisheries of Albania2, Croatia, Italy, Slovenia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and the ex-Yugoslavia Republic reached its maximum in 1981 with about 220000 tonnes of declared landed catch, to subsequently decline to the minimum of 100000 tonnes in 1999 (Figure 4). Nominal total landing of Adriatic fisheries amounted to about 110000 tonnes in the last available year (2000).

Figure 4

Figure 4. Adriatic Sea capture fishery production (excluding bivalve molluscs and aquaculture, see also text footnote 2). Data: FAO.

Recent demersal3 and pelagic4 fishery landings were compared to peak landings by area (Table 3). The comparison indicated that overall landing of the selected demersal species assemblage has currently declined to about 60–70 percent when compared to peak landing which in both western and eastern Adriatic demersal fisheries5 was reached during the second half of the 1980s. In 1999 small pelagic fishery yields amounted to 53 percent (western fishery) and 35 percent (eastern fishery) of the maximum pelagic landing achieved in the early and mid 1980s.

Table 3. Comparison by area of recent landings to peak landings of selected species from Adriatic Sea demersal and pelagic fishery, based on three-year running means (see footnote 3 and 4). Year 1999 is the last data point available in the running mean series. Data source: FAO

Demersal fishery
AreaRecent landing (t)Max landing (t)Year of max landingRecent/max landing
West Adriatic259514244219860.61
*East Adriatic5414812419890.67
Pelagic fishery
AreaRecent landing (t)Max landing (t)Year of max landingRecent/max landing
West Adriatic518259762419800.53
*East Adriatic167704777219860.35

* Pooled data: 1972–1991 from Albania and ex-Yugoslavia, 1992–2000 from Albania, Croatia, Slovenia and FRY.

Pelagic catch dominated the marine fish landing, particularly in the East Coast fishery (Mannini and Massa, 2000), even though from the mid 1980s the contribution of pelagics to total fish landings decreased remarkably as a consequence of the successive downsizing of the anchovy and sardine stocks and, more recently, of the economic changes which took place in the eastern coastal countries.

Demersal and pelagic landing patterns, expressed as a percentage variation relative to the mean, highlights the regression of small pelagic fisheries production in both the anchovy-based western fishery and the sardine-based eastern fisheries (Figures 5a and 5b).

Figure 5a

Figure 5a. Percentage landing change relative to mean value of Western Adriatic fisheries. Data source: FAO.

Figure 5b

Figure 5b. Percentage landing change relative to mean value of Eastern Adriatic fisheries. Data source: FAO.

Both fisheries were strongly affected by factors of different origin producing a significant impact on the small pelagic fishery performance, such as subsidised production during part of the 1970s and 1980s (Bombace, 1993; Cingolani et al., 1998, 2000;Jukić-Peladić, 2001), anchovy recruitment failures (Bombace, 2001; Cingolani et al, 1996), and socio-economic changes affecting the sardine fishing industry in the Eastern Adriatic (Kapedani, 2001; Jukić-Peladić, 2001; Marčeta, 2001). Unlike the small pelagic fishery, demersal landing has developed and persisted above the average since the 1980s to begin declining in the second half of the 1990s. Out of the 15 species which currently contribute to total Adriatic landings with at least 1 percent, the quantities landed over time of some key-shared stocks are described hereunder.

Merluccius merluccius (2.6 percent average contribution to total landing; 10.7 percent average contribution to demersal landing as defined in footnote 3): The nominal landing of the European hake for the whole Adriatic Sea has been increasing since 1984 reaching the maximum of about 7000 tonnes in 1994. Since then, this growing landing trend has reversed sharply declining to less than 4000 tonnes according to the last available statistics (Figure 6). The average hake landing from 1970 to 2000 was about 4000 tonnes.
Figure 6Figure 6

Figure 6. Landing (right) and percentage landing change relative to mean value (left) of M. merluccius from the Adriatic Sea (GFCM Geographical sub-area 17 and 18, three-year running average). Italian landings from area 18 are not included (see footnote 2).

Mullus spp. (1.3 percent average contribution to total landing; 5.5 percent average contribution to demersal landing as defined in footnote 3): The surmullets (Mullus spp.) landing has been increasing almost regularly with modest fluctuations since the second half of the 1980s, to reach multiple maxima each of about 3000 tonnes throughout the second half of the 1990s somehow levelling the yield increase of the previous decade (Figure 7). Over the period from 1970 to 2000 the average landing of red mullet according to official statistics was about 2000 tonnes.

Figure 7Figure 7

Figure 7. Landing (right) and percentage landing change relative to mean value (left) of Mullus spp. from the Adriatic Sea (GFCM Geographical sub-areas 17 and 18, three-year running average). Italian landings from area 18 are not included (see footnote 2).

Nephrops norvegicus (1 percent average contribution to total landing; 4.3 percent average contribution to demersal landing as defined in footnote 3): The nominal landing of Norway lobster reached the highest level of about 2500 tonnes in 1993, when the increasing pattern started during the early 1980s strongly reversed to less than 1000 tonnes in the year 2000. The average landing over the 1970–2000 period could be estimated at about 1500 tonnes (Figure 8).

Figure 8Figure 8

Figure 8. Landing (right) and percentage landing change relative to mean value (left) of N. norvegicus from the Adriatic Sea (GFCM Geographical sub-areas 17 and 18, three-year running average). Italian landings from area 18 are not included (see footnote 2).

Engraulis encrasicolus (19.1 percent average contribution to total landing; 32.3 percent average contribution to pelagic landing as defined in footnote 4): Anchovy landings during the last thirty years are characterised by two major factors: the landing peak of more than 50000 tonnes in 1981 and the subsequent decline to the minimum of 10000 tonnes in 1987, which lasted till the early 1990s.

Since then yield has been increasing to the current level of more than 30000 tonnes (Figure 9). Average landings over this period can be estimated at about 27000 tonnes.

Figure 9Figure 9

Figure 9. Landing (right) and percentage landing change relative to mean value (left) of E. encrasicolus from the Adriatic Sea (GFCM Geographical sub-areas 17 and 18, three-year running average). Italian landings from area 18 are not included (see footnote 2).

Sardina pilchardus (31.9 percent average contribution to total landing; 54 percent average contribution to pelagic landing as defined in footnote 4): the Sardine yield pattern shows a rising trend since the beginning of the available time series to peak at more than 80000 tonnes in 1982 and to regress to the minimum of 28000 tonnes from 1994 onwards. Over the whole period, Adriatic sardine landings averaged at about 48000 tonnes (Figure 10).
Figure 10Figure 10

Figure 10. Landing (right) and percentage landing change relative to mean value (left) of S. pilchardus from the Adriatic Sea (GFCM Geographical sub-areas 17 and 18, three-year running average). Italian landings from area 18 are not included (see footnote 2).

The high number of species exploited by the demersal fishery characterizes the Adriatic fisheries (as well as Mediterranean fisheries in general) as remarkably multi-specific. The occurrence of many species in the demersal fishery landings would appear to confer a relatively moderate temporal variability to total landing. For instance, in Adriatic GSA 17 the temporal variability of the nominal total landed biomass (CVt = 13.6) is lower that that of single species or species group landed biomass whose CVi ranged from 17.7 to 78.9 (Table 4). Total demersal landed biomass variability between periods would be more conservative than single species or species group landings. This aspect of exploited demersal fishery communities has been recently investigated and discussed in detail by Blanchard and Boucher (2001) comparing different areas of the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean using both fishery dependent and independent data. Apart from the possible reasons behind this fact, its role with respect to Adriatic demersal fishery production should be taken into consideration. Within the overall exploitation of Adriatic demersal communities the relatively high variability of landed quantities of individual species (or groups of species) determines, within the observed trends, the relative stability of the temporal variation of total landing. This may cause the total landing of the valuable multispecies assemblages to rely on a relatively constant supply even if within decreasing total quantity. This fact, coupled with the rise in prices which maintains the profitability of fisheries, can contribute to promote fishing activity (i.e. effort) thus generating further exploitation (see Irepa, 2003, for detailed analysis of the performance of Italian fisheries).

Table 4. Individual and total coefficient of variation in the landed biomass of demersal resources of the Geographical Sub Area 17 in the Adriatic Sea.

SpeciesGeographical Sub-Area 17
Pagellus spp.78.93
Todarodes sagittatus78.75
Parapenaeus longirostris69.40
Conger conger64.53
Dentex dentex57.80
Mustelus spp.54.36
Sparus aurata51.04
Boops boops48.58
Eledone spp.44.46
Merluccius merluccius43.56
Lophius piscatorius40.00
Spicara spp.39.41
Dicentrarchus labrax36.59
Nephrops norvegicus35.03
Micromesistius poutassou34.12
Mullus spp.31.41
Loligo spp.31.22
Sepia officinalis31.00
Octopus vulgaris29.71
Oblada melanura28.28
Solea solea26.70
Squilla mantis17.68
CV total13.64

3. Fishing fleet

Tentatively, the evolution of Adriatic fishing fleet size, in terms of total number of fishing units as available from various sources, is given in Figure 11. It is possible that in some cases the records concerning small-scale artisanal fishery vessels were inaccurate or incomplete.

Geographical sub-area 17

Figure 11

Geographical sub-area 17

Figure 11

Figure 11. Tentative estimate of the Adriatic fishing fleet evolution in terms of number of units from the 1960s taken from available literature and the AdriaMed database (year 2001). In some cases, data on small-scale fishing fleets are approximate or incomplete. Source: AdriaMed (unpubl.), Breuil (1997), Caddy and Oliver (1996), Dujmušić (2000), Ferretti and Arata (1987), Katavić (2002), Regner (2002), Irepa.

The regional fleet including all fleet segments, i.e. from small-scale fishery vessels to large trawlers reached its maximum numerical size between the 1990s and the year 2000. However, since the 1980s two trends appear to have taken place: the number of fishing vessels has been decreasing along the Italian coast and in Montenegro (in this latter case small-scale fishing vessels were not included) while the opposite can be observed in the cases of Croatia and Albania.

The size of the Adriatic fishing fleet (Albania, Croatia, Italy and Slovenia) in 2001, on the basis of official and semi-official sources, was about 10000 registered/licensed fishing vessels, although the actual number of small artisanal units was certainly under-reported6. This is due to the fact that in some countries artisanal fishery is partially recorded or an official census is not taken. Average vessel age of national fleets ranged from about 25 (Italy) to 38 years (Croatia).

At present (as of 2001), the numerical composition of the Adriatic Sea fishing fleet by vessel/gear consists of three main categories made up of fishing units equipped, or permitted to operate, with multiple gears (i.e. polyvalents), passive fixed gears (mostly belonging to small scale fishery) and bottom trawl gear (Figure 12). To some extent the unspecified polyvalent category might be overestimated and consequently others underestimated, as vessels within this group could carry out a specific fishery (e.g. passive gear fishing or small coastal trawling) for a consistent part of the year.

Figure 12

Figure 12. Adriatic Sea fishing fleet composition in 2001 (Albania, Croatia, Italy and Slovenia) expressed as the numerical percentage of vessels by fishing technique category. Source: AdriaMed database compiled in cooperation with the Fisheries Directorates of Albania, Croatia, Italy (through Irepa assistance), and Slovenia.

In terms of fishing capacity, a more indicative insight into the Adriatic fleet is obtained using vessel tonnage (Figure 13). Overall fleet tonnage for the most part resulted as allocated within the demersal trawl category followed by the polyvalent category. Fishing units performing pelagic fishery (mostly small pelagic fishery) ranked third (including both pelagic trawlers and purse seiners).

Figure 13

Figure 13. Adriatic Sea fishing fleet composition in 2001 (Albania, Croatia, and Italy) as percentage tonnage (GT) allocation by fishing technique category. Source: AdriaMed database compiled in cooperation with the Fisheries Directorates of Albania, Croatia, and Italy (through assistance from Irepa).

Fishing fleet composition in number by vessel size (length overall, LOA) and fishing gear showed (Figure 14) that most of the small scale fixed gear fishery is performed by small units of less than 12 m (LOA), most polyvalent vessels fall within the small vessel class with only about 20 percent being within the medium-size vessel category.

Most demersal and pelagic trawlers, purse seiners and tuna vessels belong to the medium-size category (12–24 m LOA) even though they are also present with various percentages in the small vessels segment. Lastly, consistent percentages of pelagic trawlers, tuna vessels, purse seiners and demersal trawlers in decreasing order of occurrence within each vessel/gear group, belong to the large vessels category (length above 24 m).

Figure 14

Figure 14. Adriatic fishing vessels numeric distribution in 2001 (Albania, Croatia, Italy and Slovenia) by length class (LOA) and fishing technique category. Source: AdriaMed database compiled in cooperation with the Fisheries Directorates of Albania, Croatia, Italy (through assistance from Irepa), and Slovenia.

4. Some remarks

The Adriatic Sea is probably the largest and the best-defined area of occurrence of shared stocks in the Mediterranean. The main issues related to shared stocks and to the management of their fisheries have been known for a long time. In 1980 Gulland observed with reference to scientific cooperation in research on shared stocks that “The main benefit from international cooperation in research is that it becomes possible to consider all the information concerning a stock of fish wherever it occurs. In the absence of such information it is very easy for a country to misinterpret what is happening to the stock in its EEZ, even when it has good information on everything that is happening in that zone” (Gulland, 1980, p. 8). With reference to the Adriatic Sea fisheries some facts can be pointed out and taken into account for the needs of fishery management planning.

Maximum total landing of both demersal and small pelagic resources was reached in the 1980s. Small pelagic fishery production has been affected by both environmentally induced stock size fluctuations (emphasised to some extent by fishery exploitation) as in the case of the western anchovy fishery and socio-economic factors (most likely combined with low stock size) as in the case of the eastern sardine fishery. Western demersal fishery in terms of landed production fully developed during the 1980s while the eastern demersal fishery has been developing since the 1980s. The western fishing fleet size reached a maximum in terms of number of vessels during the 1980s to start decreasing from the 1990s. The eastern fishing fleets started to increase considerably in the 1980s. Owing to several reasons (e.g. vessel age, available technology, crew skills, land-based services and infrastructures) vessel fishing power and fleet capacity can be assumed to vary widely between national fleets.

The development of Adriatic fisheries, as may be observed from the available landing data time series, seems to some extent to resemble the generalized fishery development model (Grainger and Garcia, 1996) which is composed of four phases: underdeveloped, developing, mature and senescent. This could be particularly the case for demersal fisheries, which are in general less prone to environmentally induced stock size fluctuations. Following Grainger and Garcia's definition of “meta-fishery” to mean a fishery targeting a species assemblage through an interacting multi-gear fleet in a given area (Grainger and Garcia, 1996), Adriatic demersal meta-fishery would appear to have developed through the 1980s reaching the mature phase in the late 1980s and 1990s to subsequently go through a senescent phase. The impact and sustainability of the overall growth of the demersal trawl fleet (as number of fishing units) in recent times should be closely monitored as it may have led to excessively high exploitation rates particularly affecting some key-species (Ungaro et al., 2003).

The state of heavy exploitation of Adriatic fishery resources is evident and for some stocks is critical. It can be noted that several different factors, often interacting simultaneously, have affected Adriatic fisheries. Fishery production dynamics are based not only on resource availability but are also strongly driven by market demand and prices. Socio-economic forces have been observed to be determinant in shaping fishery exploitation patterns. The understanding of any fishery system, and the Adriatic makes no exception, increasingly calls for multidisciplinary analysis; basic reliable fisheries statistics are fundamental and, in the case of Adriatic shared fisheries, should necessarily be comparable and easily integrated.

Recently, management of shared stocks has been the topic of the Government of Norway-FAO Expert Consultation on the Management of Shared Fish Stocks where beyond the biological aspects, the economics of the management of shared stocks was also given relevance (Munro, 2003). The Consultation, while noting that the management of shared fishery resources is one of the great challenges in the pursuit of sustainable fisheries, highlighted the fact that non-cooperative management easily leads to overexploitation. It has to be recognised that management and enforcement of rules are rather obviously more complex for shared fisheries than for non-shared fisheries.

The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (FAO, 1995; Article 7.1.3; 7.3.1; 7.3.2; 7.4.6; 12.7) clearly and unequivocally addresses issues concerning shared stocks, emphasis is given to cooperation among States as an essential and unavoidable requirement for the responsible exploitation of such resources. Nevertheless, cooperative fishery research and, above all, management can be really effective when each part foresees benefits equal or superior to those it would expect in a scenario with no cooperation (FAO, 2002).

5. References

AdriaMed. (2000) Priority Topics Related to Shared Demersal Fishery Resources of the Adriatic Sea. Report of the First Meeting of the AdriaMed Working Group on Shared Demersal Resources. FAO-MiPAF Scientific Cooperation to Support Responsible Fisheries in the Adriatic Sea. GCP/RER/010/ITA/TD-02: 21 pp.

AdriaMed. (2001) The Geographical Management Units of the Adriatic Sea. Paper presented at the GFCM-SAC Working Group on Management Units (Alicante, 23rd-25thJanuary 2001). FAO-MiPAF Scientific Cooperation to Support Responsible Fisheries in the Adriatic Sea. GCP/RER/010/ITA/OP-02: 12 pp.

Alfirević S. (1981) Contribution a la connaissance des caractéristiques bathymétriques et sédimentologiques de l'Adriatique. FAO Rapp. Peches/FAO Fish. Rep., (253): 43–52.

Artegiani, A., Azzolini, R., & Paschini, E. (1981) Seasonal thermocline evolution in the northern and middle Adriatic Sea. FAO Fish. Rep., 253: 55–64.

Blanchard, F., & Boucher, J. (2001) Temporal variability of total biomass in harvested communities of demersal fishes. Fisheries Research, 49: 283–293.

Bombace, G. (1990) Fisheries of the Adriatic Sea. The Adriatic Sea, Papers presented at the 25th European Marine Biology Symposium, University of Ferrara, pp. 57–67.

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1 Semi-enclosed and enclosed seas are here defined according to Art. 122 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982) as follows: “… a gulf, maritime basin or sea surrounded by two or more States and linked to another sea or to the ocean via narrow straits of exit, or entirely or mostly made up of territorial seas and exclusive economic zones of two or more coastal States”.

2 According to GFCM definition of statistical sub-areas the Adriatic Sea falls within the area 2.1, thus including only the Northern and Central basins, while the Southern Adriatic basin and consequently the coast of South-eastern Italy and of Albania are included in the Ionian Sea (area 2.2). In order to have as comprehensive a picture as possible of all Adriatic Sea fishery production, Albanian data originally classified as from the Ionian Sea have been included in the Adriatic data set used. Unfortunately, this was not feasible for South-western Italy (Apulia Region).

3 Demersal species are here defined as those belonging to ISSCAAP (International Standard Statistical Classification of Aquatic Animals and Plants)groups 31, 32, 33, 34, 38, 43, 45, 47 and 57 which included, in this paper, mainly: soles, turbots, gurnards, hakes, sparids, surmullets, sharks and rays, cephalopods, spottail squillid mantis, deepwater rose shrimp and Norway lobster.

4 Pelagic fish are here defined as those belonging to ISSCAAP groups 33, 35 and 37, which include, in this paper, clupeoids, mackerels, mullets and garfish.

5 The terms Western fisheries and Eastern fisheries are used to mean the landings of the Italian fishery and those, pooled, of ex-Yugoslavia and Albania (1972–91) and of Croatia, Slovenia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Republic of Serbia and Montenegro) and Albania (from 1992 onward) respectively.

6 At the time of the preparation of this paper, national fleet size estimates were being reviewed and updated by the Countries concerned.

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