Balanced Harvesting – An Emerging Concept in Fisheries Management


Over the past few decades, many fish populations have declined while pressure to increase catches has grown. In response, a number of alternatives to traditional fisheries management have emerged, with the goal of maintaining ecosystem health while still allowing fishing. One such strategy is called balanced harvesting (BH), which advocates fishing a wider range of species and sizes of fish. BH proponents claim that their methods will reduce impacts on marine ecosystems while resulting in comparable or even higher catches. However, critics have noted a number of problems with BH that indicate it would not achieve these aims. Additionally, even proponents concede that BH would likely produce lower value harvests dominated by small forage fish. Within an Antarctic context, BH, as an apparently ecosystem-based approach, might seem attractive to those seeking to increase catch limits. However, we conclude that BH is also unlikely to work in Antarctica for a number of reasons, including the many scientific uncertainties relating to marine species and the requirements to catch species with potentially minimal market value. Instead of seeking alternatives to standard fisheries management practices, a more promising approach is to implement proven strategies, such as reducing fishing levels and mitigating bycatch and habitat damage to ensure healthy environments and sustained catches for the long term.

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