Global marine wild-capture landings have remained relatively stable for >20 years; however, there is a lack of credible fishing capacity and effort information required to assess the sustainability and efficiency of the global fleet. As such, we estimated global fishing capacity and effort from 1950 to 2012 using a relatively comprehensive database developed by the FAO, supplemented by other data sources. Using random sampling techniques, we estimated the uncertainty surrounding many of our estimates enabling the identification of deficiencies and limitations. Global fishing capacity and effort increased rapidly from the late 1970s through to around 2010 before stabilizing. The Asian fleet is more than an order of magnitude larger than any other region in both capacity and effort, and continues to increase. Most other regions have stabilized, and there have been considerable declines in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in North America. Developed nations, as a whole, have decreased in both measures in the recent years and are responsible for the stabilization of the global trend. Developing and undeveloped countries are still increasing with the former having the largest fleet and showing the greatest relative increase with the socioeconomic impacts of reversing these trends likely to be high. The efficiency of the global fleet, in terms of watt days of fishing effort per tonnage of wild marine catch, is now less than in 1950 despite the considerable technological advances, and expansion throughout the world's oceans, that has occurred during this period of time.
fisheries management, fishing efficiency, fishing energy use, fishing power