Only in the last century did humans overwhelmingly accept that fisheries resources are finite. Consequently, ‘there are more fish still in the sea than ever came out of it’ served as a popular metaphor for unbounded expectations for half a millennium, expectations that also extended to use of the planet in general. By reconstructing historical fishing back 1200 years, we identify when this metaphor actually ceased to be true. For some of our most important stocks, it has not been true for centuries, although surprisingly, for fishes globally, it applied until the last century. We demonstrate, however, that there can still be ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ and that with effective management they provide a continuous flow of benefits for our future.
- global abundance
- historical fishing