The turbulent fourth decade

The first big shift in fishing operations

In the preceding section a profile of the Polish fishery was presented, casting some light on the scale and factors of its development. In this section, it is necessary to clarify the character of changes and their settings. The deployment of fishing effort, measured in standard fishing days, is presented in Fig. 13.3 for the years 1970-88. Furthermore, the distribution of catches over nine fishing areas is shown in Fig. 13.4. Looking at both Figs. 13.3 and 13.4, we can easily see that the fishing operations have either distinctively declined or were stopped in three important areas:

• The Northeast Atlantic (the North Sea and Norwegian Sea)

• The Northwest Atlantic (the Newfoundland shelf)

• Eastern Central Atlantic (the Mauritanian coast)

In the fourth area, that is, the Southeast Atlantic (along the Namibian coast), Polish operations gradually waned from 1978 until 1987, and eventually ended in 1989. The reason for the withdrawal of Polish vessels was the establishment of EEZs in those regions and its effect seemed to be devastating for the enterprises concerned. It meant relinquishing large quantities of fish which these enterprises had been extracting with no problem. The magnitude of losses incurred by the Polish fishery can be assessed from Table 13.3. Column 2 of this table shows the last years when the vessels were allowed to operate freely. Column 3 contains the quantities of fish caught during these last years. Column 4 presents the

Table 13.3

Quantities of fish caught in some regions by Polish distant-water vessels prior to and following the establishment of the exclusive economic zones (in thousands of metric tons, live weight)


The last year prior to the establishment of the EEZs

Catch in the last year prior to the est. of EEZs

Opportunities Catch extracted lost annually in 1983 (average)

Atlantic Northeast

Atlantic Northwest

Atlantic Eastern

Atlantic Southeast


1976 1975



124.5 187.5




114.1 128.3




30.0 551.2

quantities extracted in these regions following the establishment of EEZs, and Column 5 shows the opportunities lost in terms of catches.

During this first wave of compulsory withdrawal from the regions specified in Table 13.3, Poland lost a potential catch of 551,000 mt or approximately 70 percent of the total national catch at that time. Obviously, the vessels could not have been put aside to stand idle in the harbors. Luckily, the managers of Polish fishing enterprises received official notice two to three years ahead of the date when the EEZs went into effect. During this transition period, they were able to find new fishing grounds either within the EEZs of other countries or on the open sea. The exploration and scouting for new fishing grounds involved considerable but unavoidable additional costs.

In some areas, equity joint ventures were founded, the biggest one being with Peru, which operated during a 10-year period. The shifts which were carried out before the end of the 1970s are shown

ATLANTIC NORTH EAST (North Sea and Norwegian Sea)

ATLANTIC NORTH WEST (Newfoundland Coast)



ATLANTIC SOUTH WEST (Patagonian Shelf)

PACIFIC NORTH EAST (Aleutian Area and U.S. EEZ)




Fig. 13.3 Deployment of fishing effort by fishing areas.

in the set of five maps (Figs. 13.5 to 13.9). In particular, when one compares Fig. 13.5 with Fig. 13.6, one can see to what degree the deployment of fishing effort was reshaped between 1970 and 1980. The fishing grounds on the east and west shelves of the North Atlantic were almost entirely abandoned by Polish vessels. New ones, mainly in the southern part of the Atlantic and East Pacific came to the fore. The distribution of catches in 1970 in contrast with that in 1980 is shown in Figs. 13.7 and 13.8. Figure 13.9 presents the overall picture of the redeployment of fishing effort and displacement of catches. It shows the magnitude of the first big shift of the Polish fishing fleet over the world's oceans. This first big shift eventually turned out to be a success. None of the distant-water vessels had been idled or scrapped before their normal life span. Until 1981, the catches did not drop seriously. Nonetheless, everyone concerned with the Polish fishery became aware of the fact that open access to the living resources of the world's oceans had ended and that more problems were still ahead.

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