Systematic overfishing of fresh waters occurs worldwide but is largely unrecognized because of weak reporting and because other pressures can obscure fishery declines, according to an article in the December 2005 issue of BioScience. Although the status of inland waters and their fish species should be of broad concern, threats to freshwater fisheries and associated biodiversity have received scant attention from conservation groups and the media, according to author J. David Allan of the University of Michigan and his colleagues. Allan and colleagues refer to the relative lack of attention to fresh waters as a "dangerous" imbalance, since freshwater ecosystems are by some accounts more threatened than marine ecosystems.
Allan and colleagues identify two main types of overfishing. One leads to marked declines in catch per unit effort and size of individuals captured. The second type is characterized by sequential declines of species and depletion of individuals and species of large size, especially piscivores. These types are illustrated by case studies of fish declines in Australia, in the lower Mekong River of Southeast Asia, in the Great Lakes of North America, and in the Oueme River of the Republic of Benin.
Allan and his coauthors warn that overfishing of inland waters has the potential for severe impacts on human health, particularly in developing countries. For example, fish consume the vectors of important diseases such as schistosomiasis. The authors also conclude that there is ample evidence of the global importance of overfishing as a threat to inland water biodiversity. They recommend that management of inland fisheries should be guided by sustainability of yields, maintenance of biodiversity, protection from habitat degradation and other anthropogenic stressors, and provision of socioeconomic benefits to a broad spectrum of consumers.
BioScience publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles covering a wide range of biological fields. The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is an umbrella organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents some 200 member societies and organizations with a combined membership of about 250,000.
The complete list of research articles in the December 2005 issue of BioScience is as follows:
- Overfishing of Inland Waters. J. David Allan and colleagues
- Figs and the Diversity of Tropical Rainforests. Rhett D. Harrison
- Ecology, Complexity, and Metaphor. James D. Proctor and Brendon M. H. Larson
- Ecosystems, Organisms, and Machines. Evelyn Fox Keller
- Self-organization and the Emergence of Complexity in Ecological Systems. Simon A. Levin
- The Scarlet Dye of the Holy Land. Zohar Amar and colleagues
Source: American Institute of Biological Sciences. Decmber 2005