Limfjordens Fiskeri 1890-1925: - biologi, økonomi og forvaltning

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Fishing the Limfjord 1890-1925 – biology, economy and management.
The subject of research is why the Danish government in 1923 and 1925 passed a law, which in the Limfjord allowed the use of motor driven winches for pulling seines on board. In order to examine the question, I analyze the fishery of the four main species in the fjord: Eel, plaice, cod, and herring.
The perspective is that of marine environment history, with the interaction between nature and man as the main subject of research.
The period of time is chosen because it covers the peaks of catches for all four species. Furthermore, the statistic material is very thorough for this period, allowing for detailed studies.
Throughout the period, the level of fishing in the Limfjord increased. This was due to an increasing number of fulltime fishermen, the amount of fishing gear, and the introduction of motor driven fishing boats.
The type of gear used in the Limfjord was the so-called “standing gears”, which is pound nets, gillnets, traps and hooks. Even though the Danish-seine in 1848 was invented in the Limfjord, by a local fisherman, the use of all types of seine was limited. The fishermen still preferred to invest in standing gears.
Regarding the operation of the growing amount of fishing gear, the motorization was a crucial factor. It allowed the fishermen to transport more gear, faster and more accurate than with the smaller wind and manual driven boats, which were more vulnerable to bad weather conditions.
Economically, the ever-increasing investment was not met by sufficient increases in catches. By 1895 the maximum economical output was reached. After World War I, the situation got even worse, when the price of fish fell dramatically. Subsequently, around 1921, the value of the catches equaled the investment. Seeing the bleak perspectives of the trade, the fishermen and their main association, the “Centralforeningen”, was desperately looking for ways to cut costs without loosing productivity. To increase the amount of standing gear was not a feasible solution, due to the fact that every suitable place in the fjord was already in use.
The solution was instead to increase the efficiency of the seine fishery, by allowing the seine to be pulled on board by an engine. The technique was cheap and effective compared to fishing with standing gear, and it was possible reach the deepest parts of the Limfjord, where the standing gear could not be used.
Traditionally the majority of the fishermen were against seine fishing, because it disturbed fishing with standing gear, and the government had in the 1907-fisherylaw illegalized the technology. But because of the economic crises the fishermen in 1922 agreed to request the government to ease the legislation for a period of four months each winter. Originally the government had prohibited the use of motor driven winches since it was believed to favor large-scale fishing, and the government had wished to reserve fishing for small time fishermen. By 1922 the social-economical principle of management was outdated, since the
Limfjordens Fiskeri 1890 til 1925 – Biologi, økonomi og forvaltning
commercialization of the fishing trade was well established. Facing an economic crisis in the industry, the government granted the required legislation.
By 1925 the situation in the fishing industry in the Limfjord had not improved and the “Centralforening” asked for an all-year legalisation of the seine fishery with motor driven winches.
The “Fisherikontrollen” backed this legislation, as it found it difficult to keep the fishermen from fishing illegally anyway. The biological advice was more critical and warned that the legislation might damage the fish population. But being given no other alternatives the government was forced to pass the law.
The fishermen continued to increase their fishing efficiency, even though the catches did not increase proportionally, in order not to loose catches to more capable fishermen. This led to a point where a sort of economic “Tragedy of the Commons” situation was created.
Although the size of the stocks (eel, plaice and partly cod) was not affected by the growing intensity of fishing, fishing did have a negative effect on the quantity of the catches, because the fish were caught as juveniles or so early in their lifecycle, that they did not reach their potential size. Except the stock of herring, which was not affected by the growing fishing effort.
Original languageDanish
Publication date2003
Place of PublicationSyddansk Universitet
Number of pages105
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

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