Fisheries management is the activity of protecting fishery resources so sustainable exploitation is possible, drawing on fisheries science, and including the precautionary principle. Modern fisheries management is often referred to as a governmental system of appropriate management rules based on defined objectives and a mix of management means to implement the rules, which are put in place by a system of monitoring control and surveillance. A popular approach is the ecosystem approach to fisheries management. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are "no clear and generally accepted definitions of fisheries management". However, the working definition used by the FAO and much cited elsewhere is:
The integrated process of information gathering, analysis, planning, consultation, decision-making, allocation of resources and formulation and implementation, with enforcement as necessary, of regulations or rules which govern fisheries activities in order to ensure the continued productivity of the resources and the accomplishment of other fisheries objectives.
Fisheries have been explicitly managed in some places for hundreds of years. More than 80 percent of the worlds commercial exploitation of fish and shellfish are harvest from natural occurring populations in the oceans and freshwater areas. For example, the Māori people, New Zealand residents for about 700 years, had prohibitions against taking more than what could be eaten and about giving back the first fish caught as an offering to sea god Tangaroa. Starting in the 18th century attempts were made to regulate fishing in the North Norwegian fishery. This resulted in the enactment of a law in 1816 on the Lofoten fishery, which established in some measure what has come to be known as territorial use rights.
"The fishing banks were divided into areas belonging to the nearest fishing base on land and further subdivided into fields where the boats were allowed to fish. The allocation of the fishing fields was in the hands of local governing committees, usually headed by the owner of the onshore facilities which the fishermen had to rent for accommodation and for drying the fish."
Governmental resource protection-based fisheries management is a relatively new idea, first developed for North European fisheries after the first Overfishing Conference held in London in 1936. In 1957 British fisheries researchers Ray Beverton and Sidney Holt published a seminal work on North Sea commercial fisheries dynamics. In the 1960s the work became the theoretical platform for North European management schemes.
After some years away from the field of fisheries management, Beverton criticized his earlier work in a paper given at the first World Fisheries Congress in Athens in 1992. "The Dynamics of Exploited Fish Populations" expressed his concerns, including the way his and Sidney Holt's work had been misinterpreted and misused by fishery biologists and managers during the previous 30 years. Nevertheless, the institutional foundation for modern fishery management had been laid.
In 1996, the Marine Stewardship Council was founded to set standards for sustainable fishing. In 2010, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council was created to do the same for aquaculture.
A report by Prince Charles' International Sustainability Unit, the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund and 50in10 published in July 2014 estimated global fisheries were adding $270 billion a year to global GDP, but by full implementation of sustainable fishing, that figure could rise by an extra amount of as much as $50 billion.