The authors caution that their analysis is mostly confined to intensively managed fisheries in developed countries, where scientific data on fish abundance is collected. They also point out that some excess fishing effort is simply displaced to countries with weaker laws and enforcement capacity.
Dr Fulton used the ecosystem models Atlantis and Ecosim to analyse ecosystem recovery in 31 fisheries worldwide, 10 in detail, including Australia's Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery.
She says a combination of management measures has been adopted in Australia's commonwealth fisheries in the past decade to reduce pressures on fishery ecosystems.
These intensive efforts involved cooperation between fishery scientists, managers and industry. Management measures included catch quotas coupled with strategically placed fishing closures, ocean zoning, selective fishing gear, community co-management and economic incentives (such as individual transferable quotas).
"Exploitation rates have more than halved since the early 1990s," Dr Fulton says. "This means that management is setting the stage for ecological and economic recovery.
"As a result we are seeing recovery in overall ecosystem structure, even if some species aren't fully recovered yet.
"But we can't rest on our laurels. Management methods need to be tailored to particular fisheries and regions and also need to change through time as the system changes."
Dr Fulton says surveys conducted up to the mid-1990s showed signs of recovery in ecosystem structure in the North West Shelf region of Western Australia, although some species groups had not fully recovered.
|Contact: Bryony Bennett|