Analysis points to success of fisheries management
Global analysis carried out by the University of Washington has suggested that global fish stocks are not in decline, despite the common narrative that they are, and this is due to the successful management of fisheries.
Nearly half of the fish caught worldwide are from stocks that are scientifically monitored and, on average, are increasing in abundance, global analysis led by the University of Washington (UW) has shown. Effective management appears to be the main reason these stocks are at sustainable levels or successfully rebuilding.
“There is a narrative that fish stocks are declining around the world, that fisheries management is failing, and we need new solutions – and it is totally wrong,” said lead author Ray Hilborn, a Professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Fish stocks are not all declining around the world. They are increasing in many places, and we already know how to solve problems through effective fisheries management.”
The project is said to build on a decade-long international collaboration to assemble estimates of the status of fish stocks – or distinct populations of fish – around the world. This information aims to help scientists and managers know where overfishing is occurring, or where some areas could support even more fishing. Now the team’s database includes information on nearly half of the world’s fish catch, up from about 20 percent represented in the last compilation in 2009.
“The key is, we want to know how well we are doing, where we need to improve, and what the problems are,” Hilborn said. “Given that most countries are trying to provide long-term sustainable yield of their fisheries, we want to know where we are overfishing, and where there is potential for more yield in places we are not fully exploiting.”
Over the past decade, the research team built a network of collaborators in countries and regions throughout the world, inputting their data on valuable fish populations in places such as the Mediterranean, Peru, Chile, Russia, Japan and northwest Africa. Now, about 880 fish stocks are included in the database, thought to give a much more comprehensive picture worldwide of the health and status of fish populations.
Still, most of the fish stocks in South Asia and Southeast Asia do not have scientific estimates of health and status available. Fisheries in India, Indonesia and China alone represent 30 to 40 percent of the world’s fish catch that is essentially unassessed.
“There are still big gaps in the data and these gaps are more difficult to fill,” said co-author Ana Parma, a Principal Scientist at Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council. “This is because the available information on smaller fisheries is more scattered, has not been standardised and is harder to collate, or because fisheries in many regions are not regularly monitored.”
These results show that fisheries management works when applied, and the solution for sustaining fisheries around the world is implementing effective fisheries management, the authors explained.
“With the data we were able to assemble, we could test whether fisheries management allows stocks to recover. We found that, emphatically, the answer is yes,” said co-author Christopher Costello, a Professor of Environmental and Resource Economics at University of California, Santa Barbara. “This really gives credibility to the fishery managers and governments around the world that are willing to take strong actions.”