The world’s fisheries could see a swift recovery from overfishing and declining stocks if sensible reforms are implemented, according to a new study.

Research suggests that sustainable management and sensible reform could help fisheries recover, often in under 10 years. The scientists estimated the current state of over 4,000 fisheries around the world, before forecasting the impact of different management strategies.

“We find that in nearly every country of the world, fishery recovery would simultaneously drive increases in food provision, fishery profits and fish biomass in the sea,” write the authors. The study appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

As the following video explains, oceans are vital to life on earth, but unless we reform fishing we will continue to damage them.

‘Business as usual’ could lead to collapse of fisheries

The study looked at a business-as-usual scenario compared with the application of sound management using state-of-the-art bioeconomic models.

By assessing the current state of 4,713 fisheries around the world (representing 78% of the global reported catch), the authors conclude that the average fishery is in poor health. Overfishing is pushing the industry towards an uncertain future. Their model predicts “continued collapse for many of the world’s fisheries” under their business-as-usual scenario.

However, reform and sensible management could see annual increases in excess of 16 million metric tons (MMT) in catch, $53 billion in profit, and 619 MMT in biomass.

The report also highlights that these reforms could reap benefits quickly. The average fishery in the study took under 10 years to reach recovery targets.

A glimmer of hope

First, the report highlights that under the models there is little need for trade-off between profit, food and conservation. Effective reform and policy change can actually align these three targets. This is important because it offers reassurance to a variety of stakeholders.

Importantly, it also offers some good news for our oceans at a time when bad news has become the norm.

As highlighted in a World Economic Forum report, by 2050 oceans are expected contain more plastic than fish.

The current study offers a glimmer of hope for an ecosystem at risk, but action is still needed to make reform and recovery a reality.