Overfished stocks can recover

01 May 2013
Overfished Atlantic halibut could struggle to recover to healthy levels

Overfished Atlantic halibut could struggle to recover to healthy levels

A study by marine scientists at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, USA, has revealed that species of fish that have been overfished can recover to healthy levels if fisheries managers put effective limits on the catch.

Scientists had previously thought overfishing over a long period of time might compromise the ability of stocks to rebound since many of the largest and oldest members of a species, those that contribute most to reproduction, are caught.

Using a statistical method borrowed from medicine, called survival analysis, Philip Neubauer, a postdoctoral scholar, and Olaf Jensen, an assistant professor of marine and costal sciences, carried out the study. They examined 153 fish and invertebrate stocks around the world that had declined to less than 50% of their maximum sustainable yield.

Mr Neubauer and Mr Jensen said: “Recovery of overexploited marine populations would be a ‘win-win’ for fisheries and conservation, easing pressure on wild populations and associated ecosystems, and ultimately enhancing catches, revenues and food security.”

According to the study, some species that have been severely overexploited for a brief time and fish that reproduce slowly, such as Atlantic halibut, have a much harder time coming back.

Mr Neubauer and Mr Jensen say the challenge now is for fisheries managers to recognise overfishing early and restrict catches – something that has worked for Summer flounder in the US mid Atlantic region, which has bounced back, thanks to stricter fishing limits.