A Promising Future in Global Fishery Management

A.J. Rohn

Updated:

I recently wrote about new trends in certification of sustainable fisheries.

Fisheries worldwide are in trouble, both ecologically and economically.

What Does Meaningful Reform to Fisheries Look Like?

According to a new report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), that trouble does not have to be long term. The study asks what meaningful and successful reform to fisheries would look like and what trade­offs would be acceptable.

It was conducted by a collaboration of researchers from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management in Santa Barbara, the School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences in Seattle, and the Environmental Defense Fund.


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Thousands of young Atlantic salmon are being released into Salmon River in an effort to restore this diminished Lake Ontario fish population, extending the sport fishing season by at least two months in Oswego County, N.Y. Photo: Marisa Lubeck, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.
Thousands of young Atlantic salmon are being released into Salmon River in an effort to restore this diminished Lake Ontario fish population, extending the sport fishing season by at least two months in Oswego County, N.Y. Photo: Marisa Lubeck, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.

Using a massive database, numerous models, and truly extensive statistical methods, 4500 global fisheries were analyzed with consideration of various goals of different countries (consumption, profit, etc.). The conclusion of this research is that with changes in rights of access to fisheries and management practices, significant recoveries can be made as quickly as one decade down the road.

Despite the grand scale of the study, its primary focus is in East and Southeast Asia. It looks ahead all the way to the year 2050 and compares three possible approaches to fishery reform: the continuation of business­as­usual policies, the maximization of long­term catch, and the maximization of the economic value of fisheries by using a rights­based fishery management approach (RBFM).

As it may be expected, the RBFM approach is found to be most successful when applied everywhere or only to those already identified as needing greater attention to ecology. These policies should lower the costs of production and raise the quality of the product.

Examples of RBFM policies are the use of cooperatives, territorial rights for individuals or communities, and catch quotas.

From Costello et al, 2016: "Current fishery status (“Kobe”) plots for four illustrative regions. Each dot represents a fishery. The red dots represent data from RAM database, and the black dots represent our estimates for unassessed fisheries. Dot size scales to fishery catch. Shading is from a kernel density plot. The green triangle is the median and the green square is catch-weighted mean, for the given region. Panels represent data from all global fisheries in our database (A), Northeast Pacific (B), Northeast Atlantic (C), and Western Central Pacific (D) regions."
From Costello et al, 2016: “Current fishery status (“Kobe”) plots for four illustrative regions. Each dot represents a fishery. The red dots represent data from RAM database, and the black dots represent our estimates for unassessed fisheries. Dot size scales to fishery catch. Shading is from a kernel density plot. The green triangle is the median and the green square is catch-weighted mean, for the given region. Panels represent data from all global fisheries in our database (A), Northeast Pacific (B), Northeast Atlantic (C), and Western Central Pacific (D) regions.”

More:

Costello, C., Ovando, D., Clavelle, T., Strauss, C. K., Hilborn, R., Melnychuk, M. C., … & Rader, D. N. (2016). Global fishery prospects under contrasting management regimesProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201520420.

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About the author
A.J. Rohn
A.J. is a recent graduate of the Geography and Environmental Studies programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a passion for writing and interests in areas ranging from ecology to geosophy to geopolitics. He enjoys the geography of Wisconsin, be it the north woods or city life in Madison. He loves to read research papers in geography, books by scholars like Yi-Fu Tuan and Bill Cronon (both at UW-Madison), as well as classic fiction writers like Thomas Pynchon and Fyodor Dostoevsky. He is very much inspired by the work of all the people he encountered in Madison’s geography department, so expect a wide range of topics when reading his articles here.