Marine ecosystems have been suffering from diminished fish due to overfishing in recent decades, an issue which has global consequences. A 2007 study indicated that the world’s seafood stocks would collapse by the year 2048 due to overfishing. More recent studies have indicated less drastic statistics, however, stock collapses and necessary recovery times for fish continue to be issues.
Many scientists are concerned that not only are depleted fish stocks not recovering, but the growing consumption of fish worldwide will put further pressures on fish stocks overall. Growing consumption could drive further species towards extinction, threatening not only food supplies but ecosystems. This is especially important to consider when the human population is expected to rise from 7 billion to 9 billion by the year 2050.
Now a study recently published in the journal Science indicates that while some major fisheries globally are recovering due to changing management systems, the majority of global fisheries are declining. According to the study, fisheries which have not been assessed are responsible for approximately eighty percent of global fish catches. There are about 10,000 global fisheries, the majority of which have not been properly assessed.
Lead author of the study, Christopher Costello, stated: “Small-scale unassessed fisheries are in substantially worse shape than was previously thought. […] The good news here is that it’s not too late. These fisheries can rebound. But the longer we wait, the harder and more costly it will be. […] In another ten years, the window of opportunity may have been closed.”
Fisheries experiencing the greatest declines are those which have fish which are slower to mature and reproduce, which include sharks (species of shark are declining significantly worldwide due to fishing practices). However, fish which grow and reproduce more quickly, including herring, sardines and anchovies, are seeing limited declines compared to their aforementioned counterparts.
The scientists indicated that major changes need to be made, starting with thorough assessments of global fisheries. The scientists also believe giving more power to fishermen would benefit in the long run, such as allowing exclusive rights to particular catches in exchange for avoiding areas which need to recover.