Nature and Biodiversity

Is this a glimmer of hope for our at-risk oceans?

A Pacific bluefin tuna swims in a tank in the Tokyo Sea Life Park in Tokyo, April 2, 2015. All but one of the nearly 160 tuna and bonito fish have died for unknown reasons over recent months, leaving this one tuna the last remaining fish of the vast tank's original population, local media reported.  REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Net reward ... sustainable management and sensible reform could help fisheries recover, say scientists Image: REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Nature and Biodiversity?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Ocean is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:


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.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityIndustries in DepthFood and Water
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Why nature-positive cities can help transform the planet

Carlos Correa Escaf

May 24, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum