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Press release - 19. Nov. 2009

from the Symposium on Rebuilding Depleted Fish Stocks, Warnemünde, Germany, 3-6 November 2009

Many of the world’s fish stocks are heavily overfished and some are severely depleted. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in 2002, governments committed themselves to restore fish stocks to levels that can provide a Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) no later than 2015. To achieve these goals, functioning strategies for rebuilding overfished stocks are necessary. For some depleted stocks recovery measures have been successful, many others however, have not shown any sign of recovery so far.

We are now halfway between the Johannesburg declaration and 2015. An EU-funded scientific research project called “UNCOVER” has been evaluating alternative strategies to recover some of the important fish stocks in Northeast Atlantic. Similar studies have been carried out in the Northwest Atlantic, North Pacific and other areas. This past week (3-6 November) scientists from around the world participated in an international symposium on Rebuilding Depleted Fish Stocks in Warnemünde, Germany to review worldwide progress in recovering depleted stocks. Among many others the symposium was co-sponsored by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES).

Although there are some rebuilding successes, rebuilding of other fish stocks has been slower than many expected. In many cases fishing mortality has not been reduced enough to have any discernible impact on recovery. This demonstrates the difficulties governments and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) have in dealing effectively with the enormity of the problem. Delays in effectively implementing and enforcing rebuilding plans results in an ongoing accumulation of lost benefits to society – reduced catches, reduced incomes, and social costs. Reasons given for not taking action include the uncertainties associated with scientific analyses and the short-term impacts of catch reductions required for rebuilding on stakeholders and economies. In some other cases, reasons for lack of recovery include the long lasting impact of overfishing on the life history traits of fish species and on ecosystem functioning. Simply reducing fishing mortality to previously sustainable levels may not be sufficient to guarantee recovery within a prescribed time period.

Scientific understanding of the biological, ecological, social and economic processes governing the rebuilding of fisheries has improved substantially in the recent period as a consequence of concerted research effort by programs like UNCOVER. There is now sufficient knowledge to develop effective rebuilding strategies for most fish stocks. Governments and RFMOs should increase their efforts to implement these rebuilding strategies and to not delay in taking effective action, not only for those stocks that are already in dire straights, but also to keep those stocks that are beginning to show signs from becoming depleted. It is no longer justified to argue that we do not know enough to take concerted action. The evidence is overwhelming that effective action can rebuild fisheries and restore economic and social benefits derived from sustainable fisheries.



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