Overfishing is Slowing, But Only in Areas With Good Fisheries Management


photo: Phillip Capper via flickr

We all know that the state of the world's fisheries is pretty dire, with overfishing rampant and fish stock collapse likely in many places if something isn't done about it. A new paper in the journal Science gives some hope, saying that management efforts to prevent overfishing are working. Here's the gist of it (via Science Codex): After a two-year study led by Boris Worm of Dalhousie University and Ray Hilborn of University of Washington, it was found that efforts to prevent overfishing were showing signs of success in the 10 ecosystems they examined.

US, Iceland, New Zealand, Kenya Shown as Success Stories
The good news is that the scientists found in the the US, Iceland and New Zealand, those areas which are highly managed are improving. The same thing in Kenya, where scientists and local communities have worked together to implement better fisheries management with increases in fish stocks.

In terms of good management, Alaska and New Zealand were singled out as exemplars as they did not wait until crisis was at hand before implementing conservation measures.

However, the bad news is that these are exception. Of the fish stocks examined, 63% remained below target and need to be rebuilt.

Management Tools Must Be Adapted to Local Circumstances
The authors suggest a number of ways in which can be done: Catch quotes, community management, fishing closures and gear restrictions can all work -- though they emphasize that these need to be adapted to the local circumstances. They also say that a critical component is laws that specify prohibit overfishing and identify clear targets for rebuilding fish stocks.

There Will Be Short-Term Pain, But Long-Term Sustainability Benefits Are Greater
The most important thing to take away from this -- and I think this applies to every aspect of the modern green movement, not just fisheries management -- is that there is going to be short-term pain and adjustment involved in transitioning to greater sustainability in the long-term.

In the words of report co-author Trevor Branch,

Some places have chosen to end overfishing. That choice can be painful for fishermen in the short term, but in the long term it benefits fish, fishermen and our ocean ecosystems as a whole.

Read more: Efforts to curb overfishing start to show results
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Eco-Myth: Humans Have Only Been Overfishing the World's Oceans in Modern Times

Tags: Blue August | Fish | Fishing | Oceans