Scientists have joined forces in a groundbreaking assessment on the status of marine fisheries and ecosystems. The two-year study, led by Boris Worm of Dalhousie University and Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington and including an international team of 19 co-authors, shows that steps taken to curb overfishing are beginning to succeed in five of the ten large marine ecosystems that they examined. The paper, which appears in the July 31 issue of the journal Science, provides new hope for rebuilding troubled fisheries.
The study had two goals: to examine current trends in fish abundance and exploitation rates (the proportion of fish taken out of the sea) and to identify which tools managers have applied in their efforts to rebuild depleted fish stocks. The work is a significant leap forward because it reveals that the rate of fishing has been reduced in several regions around the world, resulting in some stock recovery. Moreover, it bolsters the case that sound management can contribute to the rebuilding of fisheries elsewhere.
It's good news for several regions in the U.S., Iceland and New Zealand. "These highly managed ecosystems are improving" says Hilborn. "Yet there is still a long way to go: of all fish stocks that we examined sixty-three percent remained below target and still needed to be rebuilt."
"Across all regions we are still seeing a troubling trend of increasing stock collapse," adds Worm. "But this paper shows that our oceans are not a lost cause. The encouraging result is that exploitation rate the ultimate driver of depletion and collapse is decreasing in half of the ten systems we examined in detail. This means that management in those areas is setting the stage for ecological and economic recovery. It's only a start but it gives me hope that we have the ability to bring overfishing under control."
The authors caution that their analysis was mostly confined to intensively managed fisheries
|Contact: Matthew Wright|
Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea