Commercial Fishing Methods

Until the mid-twentieth century commercial fishing effort was concentrated in shallow, continental shelf waters (<100m depth), where water depth, temperature, nutrient availability and the presence of currents and upwellings combine and create highly productive fisheries. 

In developing countries, fishing is often artisanal - dominated by small vessels using rod and line, hand-line or manually set and hauled nets, returning to shore each night. Artisanal fisheries are often important components of a subsistence economy. However, in wealthier countries, rapid advancement in engineering, refrigeration and communication technologies has produced considerably larger vessels, utilising fully mechanised gear and are able to venture much further offshore for long periods of time. More recent developments in satellite communication, GPS and ‘fish-finding’ technology has further increased the range and efficiency of fishing vessels, allowing expansion into high seas (outside of national Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ)) and deep-sea (>200m) fisheries, as well as access to previously untouched fish stocks. In contrast to fisheries in shallow continental shelf waters, high sea and deep-sea fisheries have few, if any, management or conservation frameworks. 

As fish stocks become depleted within the EEZs of wealthier nations, governments and fishing companies are purchasing fishing rights and quotas from poorer nations, which often have fewer management regulations. Within these waters large, foreign vessels capable of remaining at sea for considerable periods are having a significant impact on poorly managed fish stocks – this includes EU-flagged vessels now fishing in the EEZs of some West African nations.

Commercial fishing employs a wide range of methods and technologies, including: 



Purse-seine fishing


Drift Netting

Creels and pots