By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog.
A bit of hopeful news on the environment emanated today. Perhaps mankind won't deplete world fish stocks after all. Three years ago, a team of Canadian university marine biologists published a controversial paper in the journal Science, predicting the collapse of 90 percent of the world's edible fish species by 2048.
But now the lead author of the article and his former opponent have completed a worldwide survey of marine fisheries and they find that:
The key to healing overfished marine populations, the scientists found, is to cut the number of fish taken to somewhat below what's long been considered the maximum sustainable yield.
"Unfortunately there's a significant period of low catches required to rebuild stocks to higher levels," but long term, most fisheries can rebound, says Hilborn.
The most effective ways to allow fish populations to recover include closing some areas to fishing to give stocks secure breeding areas, changing fishing gear so smaller and juvenile fish can slip through and establishing catch share programs that assign fishermen the right to harvest a certain amount of fish so there isn't the unbridled competition.
I wonder whether the worldwide will exists to repair the 63 percent of assessed fish stocks that still need rebuilding. To do so requires re-entering the north-south or developed-undeveloped nations debate, which has so shackled worldwide progress on climate change. Industrialized nations such as the United States have done a great job of protecting fisheries. But poor countries, particularly in Africa, have weak, unenforced laws allowing big companies from industrialized nations to come in and plunder their fish stocks.
We'd better act quickly. It takes a long time for depleted fish stocks to repair themselves.