Fishing through the cracks: The unregulated nature of global squid fisheries

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Science Advances


While most research has focused on the legality of global industrial fishing, unregulated fishing has largely escaped scrutiny. Here, we evaluate the unregulated nature of global squid fisheries using AIS data and nighttime imagery of the globalized fleet of light-luring squid vessels. We find that this fishery is extensive, fishing 149,000 to 251,000 vessel days annually, and that effort increased 68% over the study period 2017–2020. Most vessels are highly mobile and fish in multiple regions, largely (86%) in unregulated areas. While scientists and policymakers express concerns over the declining abundance of squid stocks globally and regionally, we find a net increase in vessels fishing squid globally and spatial expansion of effort to novel areas. Since fishing effort is static in areas with increasing management, and rising in unmanaged areas, we suggest actors may take advantage of fragmented regulations to maximize resource extraction. Our findings highlight a profitable, but largely unregulated fishery, with strong potential for improved management.

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