Revitalizing the World’s Fisheries

A study recently published in the journal Science found that the majority of the world’s fisheries are declining but could recover if properly managed. The paper found that “over 40 percent of fisheries have crashed or are overfished, producing economic losses in excess of $50 billion per year.”

This is the first time researchers have assessed the globes 10,000 fishing areas, more than 80 percent of which are unregulated. The authors of the paper found that small unmanaged fisheries were in much worse shape than regulated ones. Large unmanaged fisheries, on the other hand performed as well as their regulated counterparts.

Even though many fisheries are strained, doesn’t mean they are beyond repair. At the root of the problem is that too many fishermen face incentives to take too many fish out of the water. With few controls and many boats on the water, captains aren’t punished for pulling in full net after full net.

About 20 percent of the world’s fisheries are monitored and regulated but the vast majority around the world operates without oversight. According to the study, 64 percent of these unassessed fishing areas “could provide increased sustainable harvest” if they came under scientific management. The authors said that could boost global fish abundance by 56 percent, which could yield more fish for human consumption.

Steven Gaines of the University of California and co-author of the study said “when fish populations are healthy, they produce more young. It may seem paradoxical, but we can get more fish on our plates by leaving more in the water.”

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