Fish stocks show signs of recovery

Some fish stocks that were on the verge of collapse are showing signs of recovery due largely to intensive management practices, according to new research that suggests limits on overfishing are saving imperilled fisheries.

HALIFAX — Some fish stocks that were on the verge of collapse are showing signs of recovery due largely to intensive management practices, according to new research that suggests limits on overfishing are saving imperilled fisheries.

The findings, published today in the journal Science, blunts dire predictions made in a 2006 paper that warned of the complete collapse of commercial fish stocks around the globe if fisheries management didn’t change.

Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, co-wrote both articles. He said the new study got a broader picture of the state of the world’s fisheries, finding that five out of the 10 ecosystems studied have reduced the amount of fish being harvested.

The discovery offers a glimmer of hope for marine scientists who have been pressing governments to bring in more stringent controls on fishing activity.

“I’m far more hopeful than I was in 2006,” he said.

“We’re not only saying this should be done, we’re saying where it has been done it has yielded benefits and a number of ecosystems are recovering and a number of stocks are recovering.”

The paper cites New England, Iceland and New Zealand as good examples of how curbs on overfishing helped slow stock decline and actually increase in abundance.

Haddock on the U.S. side of Georges Bank on the East Coast has rebounded after years of continuous decline due to foreign and domestic overfishing.

The government introduced closures in 1994 and Worm said the lucrative stock is back to much healthier levels.

Stocks off California were also seen to be improving after restrictions were placed on the types of gear that can be used to fish, large areas were closed to certain fishing practices and overall catch rates were decreased.

“It’s a tremendous success story,” Worm said.

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