Research Article

Rebuilding Global Fisheries

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Science  31 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5940, pp. 578-585
DOI: 10.1126/science.1173146

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Fighting for Fisheries

In the debate concerning the future of the world's fisheries, some have forecasted complete collapse but others have challenged this view. The protagonists in this debate have now joined forces to present a thorough quantitative review of current trends in world fisheries. Worm et al. (p. 578) evaluate the evidence for a global rebuilding of marine capture fisheries and their supporting ecosystems. Contrasting regions that have been managed for rebuilding with those that have not, reveals trajectories of decline and recovery from individual stocks to species, communities, and large marine ecosystems. The management solutions that have been most successful for rebuilding fisheries and ecosystems, include both large- and small-scale fisheries around the world.


After a long history of overexploitation, increasing efforts to restore marine ecosystems and rebuild fisheries are under way. Here, we analyze current trends from a fisheries and conservation perspective. In 5 of 10 well-studied ecosystems, the average exploitation rate has recently declined and is now at or below the rate predicted to achieve maximum sustainable yield for seven systems. Yet 63% of assessed fish stocks worldwide still require rebuilding, and even lower exploitation rates are needed to reverse the collapse of vulnerable species. Combined fisheries and conservation objectives can be achieved by merging diverse management actions, including catch restrictions, gear modification, and closed areas, depending on local context. Impacts of international fleets and the lack of alternatives to fishing complicate prospects for rebuilding fisheries in many poorer regions, highlighting the need for a global perspective on rebuilding marine resources.

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