Rebuilding Fish Stocks to Restore Fisheries

New research published in the journal Science shows that efforts made to rebuild depleted fish stocks are worthwhile and can be successful. An international team of researchers evaluated the condition of marine fisheries and the effects of fishing in ten of the world’s largest marine communities. In five of the ten ecosystems they found that fishing levels had been substantially reduced and clear signs of rebuilding could be seen.

Of the ten areas studied, 63% need to be rebuilt. 14% of the assessed stocks had collapsed by 2007, although this varied regionally (60% of the assessed stocks in Eastern Canada, for example, had collapsed).

In Kenya, a successful management strategy, involving co-operating with local communities, restrictions on damaging fishing gear and the introduction of protected areas, has led to an increase in fish stocks, in the size of caught fish and in the income gained from fishing.

The researchers conclude that fish stocks can be rebuilt if strategically placed fishing closures are combined with gear restrictions, ‘ocean zoning’ – separating areas for fisheries and conservation – with catch quotas and local management. They recommend that countries take early action, before overexploitation becomes apparent, and that nations adopt a culturally sensitive approach to rebuilding fish stocks. Closing fisheries will involve short-term losses, in yield and of jobs, and so will have a disproportionate effect on those in the developing world who may rely soley on fishing for protein and for income.

Original research: Worm, B., Hilborn, R., Baum, J. et al. (2009). Rebuilding global fisheries. Science. 325: 578-585.
Source article: Science for Environment Policy, EU