(Washington, D.C. – September 27, 2012) The magazine Science has published a study that provides new insights into over a thousand fisheries where scientific data has not been historically available. Data-poor fisheries make up around 80 percent of the world’s catch, including some fisheries in U.S. waters. According to this new research, many of these fisheries are facing collapse, but there is still time to turn the situation around. The study indicates that it is possible for fisheries to recover globally, which would increase the abundance of fish in the ocean by 56% and in some fisheries yields could more than double.
The authors found that unassessed small-scale fisheries are in worse shape than previously thought, and that these fisheries are frequently struggling in both developing and developed countries.
With these new assessments, fishery managers and world leaders can have a more comprehensive view of the status of our global fisheries. Prior to the study scientists and fishery managers only had data for a few hundred of more than 10,000 global fish stocks.
The study published in Science is part of a larger work called “Charting a Course to Sustainable Fisheries,” released this week by California Environmental Associates. The report provides some hope and insights on how the world can reverse these trends. In it, there is evidence that the rights-based management programs, like catch shares, implemented in the United States have been working. Part of the report analyzes progress in U.S. fisheries and shows that solid, science-based catch limits along with rights-based management and other measures have been effective in addressing the problems of overfishing.
Below is a statement from Amanda Leland, Vice President of Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans Program:
“This study is a blueprint for recovering the world’s ocean fish populations. Giving fishermen a concrete stake in the fishery means that they are invested in protecting it. When overfishing ends, the amount the entire fleet can catch increases, as does fishermen’s share of the catch. Economic interest and conservation interest go hand in hand and fishermen lead the way.
There are lessons to be learned from U.S. fisheries, which have turned a corner – U.S. seafood landings have reached a 17-year high, values have increased thanks in part to catch shares which are growing fish populations. Sixty-five percent of all fish that are now caught in US federal waters are caught in fisheries in catch shares or other rights-based management programs.
EDF has partnered with fishermen in many countries to transform fisheries management. The key is to empower fishermen, by giving them incentives to recover fish populations. Without making this work for fishermen there will be no way to stop the global decline and conserve fisheries that will be so important to feed a growing global population.
This study shows that recovering the world’s fisheries is absolutely critical, and, by working with fishermen, completely achievable.”
EDF hosted a call on September 26, 2012 with two of the authors of this new report, Dr. Christopher Costello and Dr. Steven Gaines of the University of California, Santa Barbara. Also on the call were Amanda Leland of EDF; Michael Arbuckle, Senior Fisheries Specialist with The World Bank; and Brett Jenks, President of RARE. Click here to listen to the call.