Fishing in the past: Historical data on sea fisheries landings in Belgium
Lescrauwaet, A.-K.; Debergh, H.; Vincx, M.; Mees, J. (2010). Fishing in the past: Historical data on sea fisheries landings in Belgium. Mar. Policy 34(6): 1279-1289. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2010.05.006
In Belgium, centralized reporting on landings of sea fisheries at the species level started in 1929. This paper summarizes the process and the results of integrating time-series, based on fragmented and disperse data sources for the period 1929–1999. The resulting database contains data by species (41), by port of landing in Belgium (4) and in ‘foreign ports,’ and by fishing area of origin (31). After quality control, total reported landings over the period 1929–2008 amounted to 3,320,518 tonnes, of which 90% was landed in the Belgian ports. After a maximum of 75,370 tonnes in 1947, annual landings declined steadily to only 26% of this peak by 2008. Currently, landings are below those achieved in 1929. The most important species in terms of landings (1929–1999) were cod (17% of all landings) and herring (16%). In terms of economic value, sole (31%) and cod (15%) were the most valuable. Close to 73% of all landings originated from 5 of the 31 fishing areas. Twenty percent of all landings (1929–1999) originated from the ‘coastal waters’, while these waters contributed nearly 60% of all landed pelagic species and 55% of all landed ‘molluscs and crustaceans’. Compared to the currently available ICES data, this local database offers advantages in temporal coverage (data from 1929 onwards), temporal scale (monthly values), and at the taxonomic level. It also provides more detailed information at the spatial scale of the southern and central North Sea, and it is the only source of historical information on landings originating from the coastal waters. Given the importance of the shallow and productive ‘Flemish banks’ as a local source of food in historical and recent times, this data is valuable for further research on the productivity of the coastal ecosystem and the local impact of fisheries. The database broadens the historical view on fisheries, underlines the decline in landings since reporting started, and serves as a basis for further (fisheries) research and policy-making in Belgium.