UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Status, Trends, and the Future of Fisheries in the East and South China Seas Teh, Louise S. L.; Cashion, Tim; Alava, Juan José; Cheung, William W. L.; Sumaila, Ussif Rashid


The East and South China Sea Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) contain globally significant biodiversity and habitats. These two LMEs border some of the world’s most populous countries, among which are major fishing nations such as China, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Fisheries thus play a prominent economic, food security, social, cultural, and livelihood role in East (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS) countries. However, ECS and SCS fisheries have experienced decades of decline, and their future sustainability is undermined by weak and/or ineffective fisheries management and governance, uncontrolled coastal development, and climate change, among other global, regional, and local scale human and environmental pressures. There is clearly an urgent need to improve marine resource management in the East and South China Sea LMEs. This report is intended to support the call for action to rebuild and protect the LMEs’ marine resources. To do so, our research objectives are: 1) Provide a baseline assessment of the present status of East China Sea fisheries at the LME level; 2) Assess the potential impact of future management and climate change on ECS fisheries and marine ecosystems. The report is split into 4 chapters: Chapter 1 sets the stage by introducing the Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) of Asia, and in particular provides indicators on fisheries productivity, trade, fishing capacity and management performance for the East and South China Seas. In Chapter 2, ‘Taking Stock’, we document the current economic and social contribution of fisheries to national economies of the East China Sea1 at the LME scale, and review the present status of ECS fisheries governance. Chapter 3, ‘Global Change’, undertakes ecosystem modelling to assess the potential ecological and economic outcomes of fisheries in both the ECS and SCS under different future scenarios of management and climate change. Chapter 4 investigates the pressing regional issue of biomass fishing by comparing economic returns to the fishery from exploiting juvenile fish versus waiting for the fish to mature. Collectively, the analyses in this report fill a present research gap by providing a comprehensive picture of the substantial socio-economic contributions of ECS fisheries at the LME scale, and showing the potential fisheries and ecosystem trade-offs under future management and climate change scenarios. By doing so, this report helps to inform fisheries policy by highlighting the costs and benefits to ECS society and ecosystems if steps are not taken to improve the current state of national and regional fisheries governance.

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