Fishing – What is It?

Fishing pertains to the activity of hunting for or trying to catch fish. The term can be applied to catching other marine animals like echinoderms, crustaceans, molluscs and cephalopods. Fishing isn’t usually applied to catching aquatic mammals like whales or farmed fish. According to the statistics of FAO, there are around 38 million fish farmers and commercial fishermen in the world. Aquaculture and fisheries give indirect and direct employment to more than 500 million people in budding states. Modern fishing not only provides food, but also serves as a recreational pastime.

Brief History

Fishing can be dated back to the Paleolithic period which began around 40,000 years ago. Isotopic examination conducted on the Tianyuan man’s skeletal remains has shown that he consumed freshwater fish on a regular basis. Cave paintings, discarded fish bones, shell maidens and other archaeology features show that sea foods were consumed in considerable amounts and crucial for survival. During this age, most people followed a hunter-gatherer routine and were always on the move. Early cases of permanent settlements are almost always related to fishing as the main food source.

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Fishing Techniques

There are various fishing tactics and techniques for catching fish. Fishing can be applied to techniques for catching other marine animals like edible aquatic invertebrates and molluscs such as octopus, squid and shellfish. Techniques include:

  • Netting
  • Trapping
  • Angling
  • Spearfishing
  • Hand gathering

Artisanal, commercial and recreational fishers employ various techniques and sometimes, the same methods. Commercial fishers catch fish for profit, while recreational fishers engage in the activity for sport or pleasure. Artisanal fishers utilize traditional, low-tech techniques as a cultural legacy in other states and for survival in third-world nations. Commercial fishers usually employ netting techniques and recreational fishers utilize angling methods.

A complex link between different fishing methods and knowledge about fish and their habitat, foraging, migration and behavior exists. This additional knowledge often improves the use of fishing methods. Some fishermen follow folklores that claim that the position of the moon and the sun influences fish feeding patterns.


Tackle is a broad term that pertains to the equipment fishermen use when fishing. Almost any gear or equipment used for this activity can be called tackle. Some examples are traps, tackle boxes, wades, spears, nets, baits, floats, rods, lures, reels, sinkers, hooks and lines. Fishing tackle is different from fishing techniques. The former pertains to the physical gear or equipment used when fishing, while the latter pertains to the ways the tackle is utilized when fishing.

Aside from fishing tackle, a fishing vessel is another important part of this activity. A fishing vessel is a ship or boat used to catch fish on a lake, river or in the sea. Different types of vessels are used in artisanal, recreational and commercial fishing. According to FAO, 2004 saw around 4 million commercial fishing vessels. Around 1.3 million are mechanized decked vessels that feature enclosed areas and 40,000 of them weigh more than 100 tons. 1.8 million of the undecked boats are powered only by oars and sail. These boats are utilized by artisan fishers.

Unlike commercial fishing vessels, recreational boats are not just used for fishing. Just about anything that’s capable of staying afloat can be referred to as a recreational fishing boat, as long as a fisher climbs aboard once in a while with the intent of catching a fish. Fish is caught for recreational reasons from boats that range from rafts, pontoon boats, kayaks, small dingies and dugout canoes to cabin cruisers, cruising yachts and runabouts to huge, lavish and hi-tech rigs. Bigger boats, particularly built for recreational fishing, normally have spacious, open cockpits designed for practical fishing.

Fishing Industry

The fishing industry consists of any activity or industry associated with marketing, taking, processing, transporting, culturing, selling, storing or preserving fish or any fish product. FAO defines it as including commercial, subsistence and recreational fishing and the processing, marketing and harvesting sectors. The commercial activity is concerned with the delivery of seafood products and fish for use as raw materials in other industrial practice and for human consumption. The fishing industry is composed of 3 principal sectors:

  • Traditional sector

This sector consists of individuals and enterprises with access to fisheries resources from which indigenous people obtain products in line with their customs.

  • Commercial sector

The commercial sector is composed of people and enterprises with access to aquaculture or wild-catch resources and the different alterations of those resources into purchasable products. It’s also called the seafood industry, even though non-food items like pearls are one of the products offered by this sector.

  • Recreational sector

This sector includes individuals and enterprises involved in fishing for the purpose of sport or recreation.


Fish farming, marine pollution, overfishing, climate change, by-catch and the effects of fishing on the environment are just some of the issues involved in the activity’s long term sustainability.

Conservation concerns are part of aquatic preservation and are tackled in fisheries science programs. A gap between people’s desire to catch fish and the amount of fish available to be caught continues to grow, which just gets worse as the population in the world increases.

Just like other environmental concerns, there can be a clash between the fishermen who rely on fishing for their source of income and fishery scientists who believe that some fisheries must stop operations or limit fishing to ensure fishing sustainability.

Fish Products

Fish and products derived from fish are consumed as food in various parts of the world. It provides the main source of premium protein and over 1 billion people depend on fish as their primary animal protein source.

Fish and other marine creatures are also processed into a wide range of food and non-food items like isinglass used for beer and wine clarification, sharkskin leather, fish emulsion used as fish oil, fish glue, fish meal and fertilizer and pigments derived from a cuttlefish’s inky secretions. Some species of fish are also gathered live for the aquarium trade or for research.