MAJOR FISHING GROUNDS OF THE WORLD The major commercial fishing grounds are located in the cool waters of the northern hemisphere in comparatively high. latitudes. Commercial fishing is little developed in the tropics or in the southern hemisphere. The best fiShing grounds are found above continental shelves which are not more than 200 metres below the water surface, where plankton of all kinds are most abundant. The world's most extensive continental shelves are located in high or midlatitudes in' the northern hemisphere, e.g., the 'banks' off Newfoundland, the North Sea and the continental shelf off north-western Europe, and the Sea of Japan.
Plankton are in plentiful supply in polar waters, at the meeting of cold and warm ocean currents as on the Newfoundland 'banks' and the Sea of Japan, or where cold water from the ocean floor wells up to the surface as it does off the west coast of South America. The continental shelves of the tropics are relatively less rich in plankton because the water is warm.
Marine life is found to be best developed in oceans with a temperature lower than 20°C. Both the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines of the middle and high latitudes in" the northern hemisphere are very much indented and are backed by strong relief. There are sheltered inlets and estuarine coasts that make ideal sites for fishing ports and villages.
More than half of the annual fish catch comes from the cold and temperate waters of the northern hemisphere. The Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans each account for about 40 per cent of the total, the Indian Ocean 4 per cent, while freshwater fishing amounts to about 15 per cent of the total. Amongst the fishing nations, Japan leads: Russia, Chinar Norway and the USA are also important.
The North-East Atlantic Region extends from Iceland to the Mediterranean shores. Here, pelagic, demersal and inshore fishing are all done on a highly organised basis by the European countries, such as Norway, Denmark, Spain, Iceland and the UK. Fishing goes on all round the year in the shallow waters of the North Sea, the most vigorously exploited area being the Dogger Bank. The busiest fishing season is spring, and the principal fish caught are herring, cod a/1d mackerel. The region is the greatest fish-exporting region of the world. In terms of tonnage of fish landed by European countries, Norway leads and Denmark takes second place, followed by Spain, Iceland and Britain.
The North-West Atlantic Region extends from Newfoundland to the New England states of the USA. Traditionally the world's richest cod-fishing region (though catches have declined as a result of overfishing), this region borders Canada and the United States. Fishing and marine industries are an important sector of the economy of seashore provin<:es of Canada, such as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Fishing provides employment for the vast majority of the population in Newfoundland.
The north-west Atlantic has a large continental shelf which provides a good breeding ground for fish. Off Newfoundland, at about-latitude 45 oN to 55 oN, the cold Labrador Current and the warm Gulf Stream converge. The icebergs that come south on the Labrador Current bring minerals from the land on which plankton thrive. The cool temperate climate not only favours large-scale commercial fishing, but also the preservation and storage of fish.
Modern canning and refrigerating facilities have greatly helped the fish export trade to progress.
The North-East Pacific Region adjoining the western shores of North America from Alaska to California, form another prosperous fishing region. Many fish inhabit the seas along its highly irregular and indented coastline. Salmon is the most valuable fish caught, and is mostly exported in canned form. In the warmer waters off the California coast, tuna and sardine are important. Large quantities of crabs, shrimps and oysters are also caught for the North American market. Catches in the north-east Pacific by the USA and Canada are smaller than those by Japan and Russia.
The North-West Pacific Region extends from the Bering Sea to the East China Sea. It is the world's greatest fishing region. Japan leads in catch, followed by China, South and North Koreas, and eastern Russia. Within the enclosed seas, e.g., the Sea of Okhotsk, Sea of Japan, Yellow Sea and the East China Sea are found intensive forms of inshore as well as deep-sea fishing. There are probably more people engaged in fishing here than in any other part of the world. Commercial fishing is best developed in Japan where the industry is very highly organised and modern fishing methods are in use.
Other regions of fishing are not so important. But off Peru and Chile the upwelling cold waters of the Humboldt Current create good conditions of plankton development, even though the continental shelf is narrow. Fish, partin! larly anchovies, are found in good numbers. Peru was om the world's leading fishing nation but catches have decijned The bulk of the fish caught is not eaten but is usel!ln- th( manufacture of fertilisers. Another of Peru's traditional industries is the collection of guano from off-shore islands which is based on the same factors. The abundant fish form the food supply for the sea-birds whose guano is collected. The peninsulas and islands of South-East Asia surround a broad continental shelf, the Sunda Shelf. Here fishing is still on a small scale but considerable potential for expansion exists.