Northeast-Atlantic fish stocks: Recovery driven by improved management
By THÜNEN INSTITUTE
Sustainable exploitation of wild fish is possible, but only when fisheries policies are implemented that ensure precautionary catch regulations
Due to overcapacities in fishing fleets and insufficiently regulated catches, many fish stocks in the Northeast-Atlantic had reached very low levels by the end of the 20th century. However, an increasing number of stocks has shown signs of recovery during recent years. A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment indicates that improved management of EU fisheries implemented through the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has been the foundation of this recovery.
Stricter regulation of fisheries and science-based management implemented in the early 2000s was crucial for increasing stock sizes. As a result of reduced catch rates, stocks of fish such as plaice in the North Sea were enabled to recover, often surprisingly fast. Nevertheless, the data also show that some stocks are still overexploited and not sustainably fished. It is therefore crucial that European fisheries management maintains efforts to reach the mid-term targets of the CFP. Fabian Zimmermann from the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen, Norway and Karl-Michael Werner from the Thünen Institute of Sea Fisheries in Bremerhaven, Germany also argue that management is not the only parameter influencing stock sizes; immediate recoveries in some stocks are often supported by advantageous environmental conditions, whereas disadvantageous environmental or ecological effects can hinder the rebuilding process of fish stocks.