Overfishing, science, and politics: the background in the 1890s to the foundation of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
reportposted on 2022-03-01, 12:47 authored by J. Smed, J. Ramster
The world of the 1890s was a very different place in which to live and work compared with the present and needs to be taken into account when considering the accomplishments made then in a fisheries research context. In various places, but notably in Scandinavia, scientists had begun to realize that there was a connection between the distribution of fish and the properties o f the water in which they lived. With this in mind Otto Pettersson organized the first multinational survey of a sea area in 1893-1894, and then, apparently, became obsessed with the idea that such joint international schemes were the wave of the future. Over the next five years, he worked tirelessly to bring about a scheme that took in the seas of northwestern Europe by making contacts in all its coastal nations. His German colleagues supported him from the beginning, providing that the research findings would be related to the development of a rational fishing policy. British colleagues were, however, divided in their opinions about his proposals, having been engaged in an internal argument about "overfishing" throughout the latter half of the 19th century. Great Britain, at the time, had a fishing industry that dwarfed those of the rest of Europe combined. Pettersson's plans really needed British articipation if they were to lead to meaningful international agreements about fishing in the North Sea in particular.