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New fishing rules shown to help depleted stocks

saving the fisheriesThe globe’s fisheries have taken a deep nose-dive in the past few decades. But a new paper, to be published in tomorrow’s Science, finds that improved management is finally beginning to pull some stocks back from the brink.

Fish stocks increased in five out of the 10 systems studied, the authors report in the two-year study.

“This paper shows that our oceans are not a lost cause,” lead study author Boris Worm, of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, said in a prepared statement. “It’s only a start—but it gives me hope that we have the ability to bring over-fishing under control.”

In 2006, Worm had predicted a full collapse of global fisheries by 2048.

Worm and his 18 co-authors used data from catch reports, scientific surveys, stock assessments, modeling and other sources to try to get a clearer picture of the fisheries statuses than previous studies had achieved. They cautioned, though, that the areas studied were primarily in developed countries with active management and strong enforcement in place. The fish stocks that had shown the most improvement were in Alaska and New Zealand.

“Management efforts must be customized to the place and the people,” co-author Beth Fulton, of CSIRO, said in a prepared statement. “There are no silver bullet solutions.” But the authors did find that a combination of efforts, including economic incentives, ocean zoning and catch quotas, was the most effective in helping stem over-fishing.

The authors also acknowledge that curtailing catch quantities “can be painful for fishermen in the short term,” co-author Trevor Branch, of the University of Washington, said in a prepared statement. “But in the long term it benefits fish, fishermen and our ocean ecosystems as a whole.”

Image of New Zealand fishing boat courtesy of New Zealand Seafood Industry Council

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