Nurturing Fisheries Back to Health

July 31, 2009

Good management means more fish in the sea, according to a new study. Efforts to curb overfishing have begun to succeed, and offer hope that fish stocks can rebuild if given a chance.

A groundbreaking new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and an international team of scientists brings surprising good news for some of the world’s fisheries. Efforts to curb overfishing have begun to succeed, and offer hope that fish stocks can rebuild if given a chance.

The researchers examined global fish populations and fishing trends in 10 large marine ecosystems. They found that fish stocks had increased in half of the areas where intensive management is taking place.

The two-year study, published in the July 31 issue of the journal Science, was led by Boris Worm of Dalhousie University and Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington. The  international team of 19 co-authors included WCS conservationist Tim McClanahan.

According to the study, most of the fisheries that showed improvement are managed by wealthy, industrialized nations; the U.S., Iceland, and New Zealand showed the most success. However, a notable exception is Kenya, where WCS conducts long-term fisheries research. WCS has advised local managers and communities to close some key areas to fishing and restrict certain types of gear. This has led to an increase in the size and prices of fish available, and an increase in fishers’ incomes.

“Kenya has experienced first-hand the problems of unrestricted access to fisheries, which has led to overfishing.” said McClanahan. “However, in those areas where the lessons of good management have been applied, it has been a win-win situation, with improved fisheries subsequently improving the long-term livelihoods for fishers.”

Dr. Caleb McClennen, Director of WCS’s Marine Programs, added that improving fisheries management is especially critical for coastal communities that depend on the health of marine ecosystems for survival on a daily basis.

The study warns that overfishing has caused fisheries to collapse in many areas, and that nearly two-thirds of assessed fish stocks need to rebuild. WCS works throughout the world’s four oceans to safeguard marine life and seascapes by encouraging good principles of fisheries management including restrictions of destructive gear, fisheries closures, and rebuilding overfished stocks.

The work conducted by WCS for this publication was supported by the Tiffany & Co. Foundation and the Western Indian Marine Science Association.

Read the press release: Global Study Finds Some Fisheries Rebounding when Managed Well
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