Twice as many fishing vessels now, but it’s harder to catch fish

How many ships and boats ply the world’s oceans for seafood today? Researchers have a new estimate: where there were about 1.7 million boats harvesting fish in 1950, the number more than doubled to 3.7 million fishing vessels in 2015.

More fishing vessels have become motorized as well. While only 20 percent of the global fishing fleet was powered by motors in 1950, this number rose to 68 percent in 2015, albeit most are equipped with small engines of less than 50 kilowatts. The ballooning fishing fleet is, however, catching less seafood for the same effort, the researchers report in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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