This summary of the history of marine fisheries in Southeast Asia traces the development of fisheries in the region from basically subsistence activities in the nineteenth century to large-scale industrial fishing in the latter part of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and examines the impact that this development has had on fish stocks and fishing communities in the region. In examining the history of fisheries development, the common feature is that of a boom and bust development where, one by one, stocks and habitats were exploited by new or improved fishing techniques to supply a rapidly increasing regional population and expanding export markets. In all areas, this exploitation was done in an often uncontrolled, unregulated manner. When stocks were depleted by new fishing methods, fleets moved on to the next area or stock. This sequential plunder also occurred across fisheres as the declining economic performance of one fishery spurred the transfer of vessels and fishers to a new, developing fishery (very often with government assistance) which in its turn also declined. However, this process has now run its course because there are virtually no new unexploited fish stocks or areas remaining that fishing fleets can move to. This historic account of the boom and bust activities of industrial fishing highlights the need for a thorough overhaul of existing fisheries policies in the region and a move towards much more sustainable development.
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