Most of America’s seafood counters display glistening mounds of all manner of fresh fish. But this bounty belies the fact that the oceans are in serious trouble. In the U.S., thousands of fishermen have lost their jobs, and signs of ecosystem collapse are on the rise, as nets get clogged with jellyfish rather than sought-after kinds of fish.
The graph below paints a sobering picture of how much fish populations have dwindled – and where they might be headed if we don’t act soon: In 1950, just 15 percent of stocks were overfished; in 2003, 70 percent were overfished or had totally collapsed
A recent New York Times article by food writer and cookbook author Mark Bittman captures just how bad the situation with the oceans has become (A Seafood Snob Ponders the Future of Fish, Nov. 16).
But despite the spate of dire news, there is reason for hope. Compelling new information published in the world’s leading scientific journals in the last few months provides solid evidence that we can turn the tide on declining fish populations.
Two landmark studies found that a fisheries management approach called “catch shares” prevents, and can even reverse, the collapse of the world’s fisheries. Catch shares turn fishermen into ocean stewards; they are allocated a share of total catch based on a scientifically determined limit, or quota – a kind of cap-and-trade for fish. The new analyses shows catch share fisheries to be on average four times more productive than non-catch share fisheries.
To learn why this tool seems the best hope for building economic wealth and environmental sustainability in America’s seas, visit OceansofAbundance.org.