Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Now in Science: It's not too late for troubled fisheries
by Staff Writers
Santa Barbara CA (SPX) Oct 03, 2012

An interesting finding - again, made possible by employing this new assessment tool for data-poor fisheries - is that in large-scale fisheries, stocks that are measured and tracked are at similar levels as those that that have not been formally measured.

A study published in Science magazine and co-authored by Bren School Sustainable Fisheries Group (SFG) researchers and their colleagues confirms suspicions that thousands of "data-poor" fisheries, representing some 80 percent of the world's fisheries, are in decline but could recover with proper management.

The authors of "Status and Solutions for the World's Unassessed Fisheries" also found that taking quick action to allow depleted stocks to recover to sustainable levels could result in future catches that are 8 to 40 percent larger than are predicted if current unsustainable fishing practices continue.

The findings were made possible by a new assessment technique developed by the researchers, which allowed them to determine fish population status using far less data than are required by a traditional stock assessment, which is both expensive and time-consuming and impractical for a high percentage of the world's fisheries.

Substantial population data are available for only about 20 percent of the world's 10,000 fish stocks, and those well-studied fisheries tend to be in better shape than fisheries for which little data exist.

"For most fisheries, we simply didn't know how many fish were out there and whether their populations were trending up or down," says lead author and Bren School professor of economics Christopher Costello. "Without good information on fish populations, it can be hard to manage sustainably. It's like trying to decide how far you can drive your car without knowing how much gas is in the tank."

Further, Costello explains, lacking sound estimates for a stock's population, "Political pressure tends to dominate decision making, and we end up catching too much. Over time, this can lead a fishery to collapse."

Co-author and Bren School dean, Steve Gaines, describes the data-rich 20 percent of fisheries as "a tiny slice that can give us a skewed view" of the health of global fisheries.

The authors caution that the new assessment method cannot take the place of formal assessment programs for individual fisheries, but they do provide accurate global and regional information that can be used to inform fisheries management decisions.

"Using these tools at a regional scale, we can gain up to 80 percent of the insights of traditional assessment approaches at just 1 percent of the cost," says Gaines.

The tool enabled the researchers to provide a new global status report that includes these previously unmeasured fisheries, bringing thousands of what managers call "unassessed" fisheries into focus.

The results show that more than half of the world's fisheries are in decline and that, across the globe, stocks for which robust data exist are doing better than those that are less-studied, regardless of which country manages them.

"If we look at assessed stocks, we can be pretty satisfied that fishery management systems are generally working to ensure long-term sustainability," says University of Washington scientist and co-author Ray Hilborn. "For previously unassessed stocks, this doesn't appear to be true."

An interesting finding - again, made possible by employing this new assessment tool for data-poor fisheries - is that in large-scale fisheries, stocks that are measured and tracked are at similar levels as those that that have not been formally measured.

But under current fishing pressure, their futures look very different: the assessed stocks are starting to show signs of recovery, while fisheries for which little data exists continue to decline.

Further, in small-scale fisheries, data-poor stocks are in far worse shape than their well-studied counterparts, and many are plummeting at alarming rates. These small-scale, data-poor fisheries are critical to local food security in many parts of the world.

While the impact on food security is most significant for local-level (small-scale) fisheries in poorer countries, explains co-author, UCSB ecologist, and SFG scientist Sarah Lester, "This isn't just a developing-world problem. Small, unassessed fisheries in the U.S. and Europe are often in as bad a shape as those in the developing world."

While many of the world's fisheries are in trouble, the authors suggest that the majority of them can still rebound with better management.

"Strong management could increase the number of fish in the ocean by more than 50 percent," says Gaines. "When fish populations are healthy they produce more young. It may seem paradoxical, but we can get more fish on our plates by leaving more in the water."

Time is of the essence. "These fisheries can rebound," Costello says, "but the longer we wait, the harder and more costly it will be to bring them back. In another ten years, the window of opportunity may have closed."

The study in Science is part of a larger study titled "Charting a Course to Sustainable Fisheries," released this week by the consulting firm California Environmental Associates.

It evaluates successes and gaps in fishery management and conservation programs around the world, highlighting the fact that while methods for returning dwindling fisheries to health are understood, political battles often prevent them from being put into action.

The report shows that where gains are being made, such as in the U.S., where many large fisheries are starting to recover, they result from a combination of efforts: relying on strong science to set total allowable fishing levels, closing some areas to allow for stock rebuilding, and using sustainable seafood markets and rights-based management strategies that give fishermen secure access to a proportion of catch.

The report shows that, while there is no one-size-fits-all solution to eliminate overfishing, success can come from employing proven principles and practices while fine-tuning them to suit the specific circumstances and characteristics of individual locations around the world.

"The key is to use and share these practices more broadly," says Matthew Elliott, principal of CEA and author of "Charting a Course to Sustainable Fisheries.

"In many areas of the world, particularly in the tropics and sub-tropics, we see fisheries expanding quickly with little in the way of management. This research fills an important information gap for those fisheries. We hope it will draw more international attention to fisheries management in the many parts of the world that we have historically ignored."

"This isn't something where we need another twenty years of science," says Gaines. "We know what it takes."

"Healthy ocean fisheries hold the potential to feed a growing population without destroying the supporting ecosystems to the point where they no longer produce seafood," adds Elliott. "Within our lifetime, we can make sustainable global fisheries the norm rather than the exception."


Related Links
University of California - Santa Barbara
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Great Barrier Reef loosing coral
Sydney (UPI) Oct 2, 2012
Half of the Great Barrier Reef's coral has been wiped out in the last 27 years, a new study says. If the mass die-off continues, the study warns, less than 25 percent of the coral cover would exist in 2022. Published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study was conducted by researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Univer ... read more

Hong Kong seeks answers after deadly ferry crash

18 school children buried in China landslide

World facing unprecedented refugee crisis: UNHCR

Twenty-five killed in Hong Kong ferry collision: official

HP stock sinks with slow turnaround

Malaysia hearing on Australia rare earths plant postponed

Ancient stinging nettles reveal Bronze Age trade connections

Probing the mysteries of cracks and stresses

Now in Science: It's not too late for troubled fisheries

White shark diets vary with age and among individuals

Australia admits neglect of Great Barrier Reef

New clues about ancient water cycles shed light on US deserts

Australian tycoon fined for Arctic party cruise

Study: Arctic warming faster than before

Rudolph unfed loathes rain, dear

Melting Arctic ice cap at record low

Mother of cultivated rice came from China's Pearl River

Sandia probability maps help sniff out food contamination

An Old Pest Reemerges in Organic Orchards

Bhutan aims to be first 100% organic nation

Typhoon Maliksi nearing Japan's northeast

Nigeria seasonal floods kill 148: Red Cross

Powerful typhoon hits Japan mainland

Typhoon Jelawat on course to hit mainland Japan

Nigeria seeks to end the curse of unfinished projects

Ivory Coast opens first major trial of soldiers in political crisis

France to facilitate Mali anti-rebel force

One-third of Lesotho faces food crisis: UN food agency

Compelling evidence that brain parts evolve independently

Anti-aging pill being developed

Human Brains Develop Wiring Slowly, Differing from Chimpanzees

Breaking up harder to do on Facebook

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement