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On the creeping increase of vessels’ fishing power

Maria L. D. Palomares, Sea Around Us, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia
Daniel Pauly, Sea Around Us, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia


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This contribution presents a synthesis, via a semilogarithmic regression, of estimates of the slow increase of technological efficiency, or “creep factor,” as estimated by various authors for a number of demersal and pelagic fisheries. This factor is used in fisheries science to adjust for the gradual increase in the effectiveness of fishing gear resulting from the successive introduction of technological improvement to fishing gear and vessels. Altogether, 51 estimates of this creep factor, mostly around 2–4%/yr and covering periods from 4 to 129 yr, were assembled or newly calculated from secondary data and shown to decrease as the period covered increased. This finding is compatible with the hypothesis that creep factors are usually estimated and published to correct for the introduction of an effective new technology over a short period of time. We suggest that estimates obtained in this fashion cannot be applied to long-term analyses and propose instead our empirical relationship, derived from estimates of creep factor and the number of years covered in a study. Also, our study confirms that technology creep must be included in all analyses involving time series of fishing effort, particularly if they exceed one decade in temporal coverage.

Key words

effectiveness of fishing gear; fishing power; technological efficiency; technology creep factor

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087