Improving Management of Small-Scale Fisheries Holds Potential To Feed More Mouths

Saturday, February 16, 2013
Room 302 (Hynes Convention Center)
Sarah Lester , University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
The majority of individual fisheries on the planet have relatively small landings, although collectively they provide a critical source of food, economic welfare, and livelihoods for a vast number of coastal populations, particularly in the developing world. Unfortunately, most of these fisheries have very limited amounts of data available to evaluate their health. We developed a new assessment technique that provides the first quantitative evaluation of thousands of previously unassessed, “data-poor” fisheries. The results show that previously unassessed stocks are in worse shape than fisheries with formal stock assessments. Furthermore, small-scale unassessed fisheries are in particularly poor condition relative to assessed fisheries and are on a trajectory of continued decline. Strikingly, this pattern holds in both the developing and developed world. However, prompt action could allow ailing fisheries to rebound, with immense environmental and economic benefits. If fisheries management is improved for these small-scale stocks, and they are allowed to recover to sustainable levels, yields could increase globally by 40% or more compared to expected yields if we continue current fishing trends. These yield increases would be accompanied by conservation benefits – a true win-win – as recovery would also increase the number of fish in the water by over 50%. More regional analyses show, however, that increases may be substantially higher than global estimates for areas with high projected increases in demand.