A spatial method to calculate small-scale fisheries effort in data poor scenarios
To gauge the collateral impacts of fishing we must know where fishing boats operate and how much they fish. Although small-scale fisheries land approximately the same amount of fish for human consumption as industrial fleets globally, methods of estimating their fishing effort are comparatively poor. We present an accessible, spatial method of calculating the effort of small-scale fisheries based on two simple measures that are available, or at least easily estimated, in even the most data-poor fisheries: the number of boats and the local coastal human population. We illustrate the method using a small-scale fisheries case study from the Gulf of California, Mexico, and show that our measure of Predicted Fishing Effort (PFE), measured as the number of boats operating in a given area per day adjusted by the number of people in local coastal populations, can accurately predict fisheries landings in the Gulf. Comparing our values of PFE to commercial fishery landings throughout the Gulf also indicates that the current number of small-scale fishing boats in the Gulf is approximately double what is required to land theoretical maximum fish biomass. Our method is fishery-type independent and can be used to quantitatively evaluate the efficacy of growth in small-scale fisheries. This new method provides an important first step towards estimating the fishing effort of small-scale fleets globally.