Uruguayan fisheries under an increasingly globalized scenario:Long-term landings and bioeconomic trends.

Published in Fisheries Research, v. 190:53-60

Gianelli, I., Defeo, O..

Publication year 2017
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fishres.2017.02.002

UNDECIMAR, Facultad de Ciencias, Iguá 4225, PO Box 10773, Montevideo, 11400, Uruguay GEPEIA, Centro Universitario Regional Este, Ruta nacional N°9 intersección con Ruta N°15, Rocha, Uruguay Dirección Nacional de Recursos Acuáticos, Constituyente 1497, Montevideo, 11200, Uruguay

IAI Program


We are grateful for the support provided by CSIC-Grupos (G-633) and the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (grant CRN3070), which is supported by the US National Science Foundation (Grant GEO-1128040). We are especially grateful to Inés Lorenzo for her invaluable participation in gathering historical information and useful discussions from the beginning. We thank Mathias Seaman for reviewing an earlier version and two anonymous reviewers for comments that greatly improved this manuscript. 

IAI Project CRN3070


•Historical and current Uruguayan fisheries trends are linked with prevailing management policies and international trade dynamics.

•Interconnection between international demand and landings delineates long-term patterns in Uruguayan industrial fisheries.

•Increasing fishing pressure on resources without a clear management framework undermined the resilience of the sector.

•Future drivers and potential strategies for improvement of the fisheries sector are discussed.


The systematic dwindling over time of many commercially important fish stocks in developed countries and the increasing demand of international markets provided a window of opportunity for fishery sector development in many developing countries. Science-based assessments of how market forces impact on fisheries trends are particularly limited in developing countries. This study assessed long-term trends (1960&ndash2013) of the Uruguayan industrial fishery sector, including: (i) landings discriminated by species and resource type (ii) variations in nominal effort and fleet capacity (iii) bioeconomic patterns for most important species and (iv) export and import volumes at the Uruguayan seafood market. Results indicate the sector underwent four phases that depict long-term patterns: development, expansion, stabilization/diversification and declining yields and market contraction. The development of the sector was mainly due to the Argentine hake fishery, which was characterized by a sustained increase in landings, nominal effort and fleet capacity during the initial decades, but showed a decreasing trend afterwards. In response, a fishery diversification policy based on more valuable target species but with lower trophic levels was developed. Uruguay adopted a seafood net exporter role since the very beginning, with exports increasing linearly through time. More recently, seafood imports, with more competitive prices than locally caught seafood, have been gaining ground in the domestic market, reaching a third of all seafood currently consumed. Nowadays, the Uruguayan fishery sector is facing a crisis that is clearly reflected in the decreasing yields of the main species targeted, exports dwindling and increasing seafood imports. These results highlight the pressing need of the industrial sector to shift its model of fisheries exploitation. This study also provides evidence of the need to consider additional bioeconomic analysis to fully understand the behavior of the fishery sector as a dynamic social-ecological system operating in a globalized seafood trade scenario.