Elizabeth R. DeSombre & J. Samuel Barkin


Fishing has played a vital role in human history and culture. But today this key resource faces a serious crisis as most species are being overfished or fished to their very limit. Governments have tried to tackle the problem with limited success. Many of their actions have been ineffective or counterproductive. What will happen to global fisheries, and the populations that depend on them, as we continue to catch more fish than the oceans can reproduce?

This book explores the causes of the current crisis in the world’s fisheries, and what needs to be done to address the situation. It explains the structure of the fishing industry, the incentives that persuade individuals or companies to catch fish at unsustainable levels, and illuminates the problems created by governmental efforts to use fishing policy as a tool for economic development or to win votes in domestic elections.

The dire condition of fish stocks has led governments and consumer organizations to consider new approaches to protect the global supply of fish. DeSombre and Barkin conclude by showing how such methods, along with new forms of international regulation and informed decision-making by consumers, all have an important part to play in rewarding and thus encouraging sustainable fishing behaviour in the future.

About the Authors

J. Samuel Barkin is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida.

Elizabeth R. DeSombre is Frost Professor of Environmental Studies and Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College.


  1. Introduction
  2. The Growth of the Global Fishing Industry
  3. Structure of the Fishing Industry
  4. Regulatory Efforts and Impacts
  5. Aquaculture
  6. Consumers and Catches


“DeSombre & Barkin explain the complex reality of global fisheries in a clear and engaging manner. Their concise description of the problems caused by human exploitaion of the oceans is tempered by a set of potential solutions that can be implemented by anyone--fishers, governments, consumers, and concerned people everywhere.”

— D. G. Webster, Dartmouth University

“Packed with facts and information, this wide-ranging book tells the tale of global fisheries in an easily accessible and engaging way. I can think of no better introduction to the subject.”

— Dale Squires, NOAA Fisheries Service

“The authors of Fish have written a wonderful book, which gives readers a global overview of the fishing industry. DeSombre and Barkin show how ocean fisheries differ from other natural resources and how these differences creates challenges for resource management. Fish is a valuable resource for anyone interested in ocean fisheries and their future.”

— Áslaug Ásgeirsdóttir, author of Who Gets What? Domestic Influences on International Negotiations Allocating Shared Resources