Inland Fisheries

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Inland Fisheries


Fishing has long been an important source for human nutrition and commercial activity. Although most fishing occurs at sea, in the marine environment, many smaller-scale fisheries rely on inland bodies of water such as lakes and rivers. Most recreational fishing also occurs in inland locations. Inland fishing captures freshwater fish species, such as trout. Some inland fisheries are based upon fish farming, where species are raised in giant tanks or ponds

Inland fisheries must compete with other uses of freshwater in a lake or river. It may be a water supply for the local population, for example. These different interests must be carefully balanced if the quality of the water is not to be degraded. Many fish species have been threatened by overfishing at inland fisheries. Therefore, sustainable fishing practices need to be encouraged inland as much as in the seas and oceans.

Historical Background and Scientific Foundations

Most commercial fishing is carried out in the marine environment, which comprises the seas and oceans. However, some fishing also occurs inland, in the freshwater of lakes and rivers. Freshwater accounts for only around 2% of all water on Earth and most of this is locked up as ice or snow in the polar regions. Therefore, only a limited amount of water is available for inland fisheries compared to the vast resources of the oceans. Inland fisheries are the commercial fishing operations taking place in freshwater. Some of this fishing is capture fishing, where the fish living naturally in a body of water are harvested. The other type of inland fishery is the fish farm, where fish are raised in tanks or ponds, generally for human consumption. Fish farming is a type of aquaculture, which is a broad term referring to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants or animals in water for human use.

Over 90% of all inland fisheries are found in developing countries with the majority being located in China, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Most of the catch of an inland fishery is consumed locally. Many inland fisheries are small operations and it is difficult to capture accurate data for the amount of commercial activity. The Overseas Development Institute quotes a figure of 9 million tons (8.2 million tonnes) caught from 1999, but the actual amount of fish caught might be much higher than this. Records are not always kept and some of the fish will be for subsistence consumption rather than for sale.

Fish stocks for inland fisheries are often seasonal. They include freshwater species like Nile perch and trout. Inland fish catches make up about 12% of the capture fish consumed worldwide, and in many African countries they are a major source of protein for the population. The world’s inland fisheries are found in a wide diversity of ecosystems including lakes, rivers, wetlands, reservoirs, and ponds. They provide a source of regular seasonal employment for millions of people.

Impacts and Issues

The locations of inland fisheries often have multiple purposes. For instance, there may be agriculture close by and the lake or river may also be a local water supply. Sometimes the pressure of these conflicting activities may impair the water quality. It is important that the carrying capacity of a particular body of water is known, because overfishing can be as much of a problem in inland fisheries as it is in marine fisheries.

Many freshwater fish species are now vulnerable, endangered, or even extinct because of overfishing or poor water quality. Therefore sustainable management of


AQUACULTURE: The farming of fish or shellfish in freshwater or saltwater.

CAPTURE FISHERY: The harvesting of fish stocks occurring naturally in a body of water.

FISH FARMING: The commercial production of fish in tanks or enclosures, usually for food; also known as aquaculture.

SUSTAINABLE: Capable of being sustained or continued for an indefinite period without exhausting necessary resources or otherwise self-destructing: often applied to human activities such as farming, energy generation, or the maintenance of a society as a whole.

inland fisheries is required so that activities may be integrated with other uses of a body of water.

See Also Commercial Fisheries; Marine Fisheries; Overfishing


Web Sites

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “NOAA Aquaculture Program.” (accessed April 29, 2008).

Overseas Development Institute. “Inland Fisheries.” (accessed April 29, 2008).