A new study demonstrates that proper fisheries management can sustain stocks.

The global study analysing how well fisheries management schemes are at preventing population decline, including data from New Zealand and Australia, finds areas where fish numbers are being managed - roughly half of the world’s fish catch - stocks remain mostly steady.

But the other half is not properly assessed or managed, leaving vast areas prone to overfishing, with harvest rates three times greater than managed fisheries, and baseline fish stocks contain around half the number of fish.

The authors estimate that excessive fishing pressure is currently responsible for approximately 3–5 per cent loss of potential yield from global marine fisheries.

In regions where fisheries are intensively managed, legislation and fishery management changes decreased fishing pressure while stock abundance improved—in some cases, above target levels.

Compared with regions with highly developed fishery management, regions with less developed fishery management had approximately three-fold greater harvest rates.

Francisco Blaha, International Fisheries Advisor, says it is difficult to demonstrate the effectiveness of fisheries management.

“The picture of fisheries management worldwide is a patchy one, and varies geographically and politically,” Blaha says.

“Doom generalisations that all fisheries are collapsing, while perhaps well intended, do not help to fix problems.

“Fisheries science, management methods and strategies, compliance monitoring and enforcement are far from perfect, but they are perfectible in time.

“The authors of this paper provide evidence that the efforts of the thousands of managers, scientists, fishers, and nongovernmental organisation workers have resulted in significantly improved statuses of fisheries in much of the developed world, and increasingly in the developing world. Scientifically managed and assessed fish stocks in many places are increasing, or are already at or above the levels that will provide a sustainable long-term catch.

“If sufficient resources, good science, clear governance and geopolitical independence are provided to those organisations and stakeholders in charge of managing fisheries, sustainable long term catch can continue to be possible,” he said.