The specific value of fish has varied greatly over the years, and also varies widely by geography and the proximity to water sources and fishing grounds.Trends in Fish Pricing: From the Ancient Seas to Modern Trawlers
Fish has long been an important part of the human diet, from the ancient Egyptians, whose nets and spears harvested fish from the sacred Nile, to modern-day industrial fishing vessels which can carry literal tons of fish to shore with each voyage.
In ancient times, fish were a staple food for nearly every coastal culture world-wide. Invariably, certain species were considered to be significantly more valuable than others. For example, the ancient coastal Greeks consumed fish and seafood as their primary source of protein; some smaller and easily caught fish went for less than a third the price commanded by larger, more impressive and delicious fish such as bluefin tuna. Advances in technology allowed for greater preservation of freshly caught fish and increased ease in transporting a fisherman's catch over long distances. This has allowed for lower prices and greater access for those people who do not live near fish production areas.
As technology advanced through the years, new options became available to fishermen. Trawlers, or ships which drag enormous nets behind them through the ocean, enable the harvest of tens of thousands of fish in one voyage with a minimum of human effort. This change caused a precipitous drop in prices and and massive increase in the availability of common subsistence fish throughout the past century.
In modern times, laws relating to conservation efforts have driven up the price of certain fish. Overfishing has threatened many habitats and caused the overall population of many types of fish to drop. At the same time, however, increased free trade through globalization has helped to stabilize these markets somewhat. On the extreme upper end of fish pricing, rare and increasingly threatened bluefin tuna have gone for prices as high as $100,000 on Japanese auction blocks. By comparison, a (common, un-threatened) Flathead on the Hong Kong market goes for as little as $6.90 per kilogram. As scarcity drives up demand, this gap will only widen.