Fisheries Can Recover… How Much Action Should We Take?

01 Aug

The study, published in the journal Science, found that 63 percent of assessed fish stocks worldwide require rebuilding to reverse the collapse of vulnerable species. “Across all regions, we are still seeing a troubling trend of increasing stock collapse,” said lead author Boris Worm of Canada’s Dalhousie University. “But this paper shows that our oceans are not a lost cause.”

The study found that a range of management strategies helped protect and restore fishing stocks. One of these strategies involved switching to nets that allow smaller fish to escape and closing some key areas to fishing helped Kenya increase the size and amount of fish available and boost fishing incomes.

If the netting became mandated around the world then, at first, fisherman would complain about the regulations, but it would be adopted fairly easily. All over the world their are regulations regarding the size of the fish or lobster that can be caught, and smaller animals must be returned to the ocean, until they have matured. This gives the animals enough time to mature and reproduce, which maintains the stocks. 

Require nets to have larger wholes is only part of the solution. In five of the ten regions around the world, managers were able to decrease the rate of exploitation, or the proportion of total fish population that is caught. Rate of exploitation is the primary driver in the depletion of collapse, according to a Grist article. This decrease has allowed the fish populations to stabilize. However, preventing people from fishing, even if they are commercial fisherman will have a much larger public backlash. There are two angles here, if you reduce the number of fish caught, you will hurt the livelihood of fisherman, you will raise the price of fish and you will take away a source of protein from impoverished people around the world. However, if we keep fishing at the current rates fisheries will collapses and we have no idea what impact the extinction of these fish species will have on the ocean ecosystem as a whole.

So, we are debating which is more important, a potential longer term solution to the stabilization of fisheries or a short term solution to world hunger and the livelihood of fisherman. 

Those are the two sides. It seems obvious, as a first step, to take all of the smaller management strategies, like having larger wholes in fish nets. This will reduce the pressure on these fisheries but it will not solve this problem. Personally, I think it is important to prevent the fisheries from collapsing. I believe and this study confirms that our fisheries are not beyond repair. Therefore, we need to repair them. It’s unavoidable; we need to reduce the rate of exploitation, for the time being, to allow the fisheries to stabilize. If they collapse, the effects will be two fold. First, no one will be able to consume fish. And secondly, we face mass extinction and we have no idea what impact that will have on the ecosystem as a whole. We are not the only organisms in the world that are dependent on fish and protein to survive.

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Posted by on August 1, 2009 in sustainability


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