Study Finds Over Half of Fish Stocks Worldwide Are Missing the Opportunity to Maximize Sustainable Yields

April 12, 2017

The new findings are the result of an “ensemble modeling” approach that provides more detailed analysis of fish stocks than previously available.

The study and new methodology, which analyzed 785 fish stocks globally, received funding from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Conservation International and The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Approximately three billion people depend on seafood as their main source of protein, and overfishing is a critical issue for food and livelihood security worldwide. Yet previous methods for evaluating fish stocks were only applied to smaller subset stocks or were based on expert input and not consistently calculated, providing an incomplete picture of their status for managers.

“Previous attempts to estimate fish stock status would broadly tell us if a fish stock was fully or overexploited,” said one of the lead authors, Dr. Elizabeth Selig, in an interview posted today on Human Nature, Conservation International’s blog. “Our work shows just how far a given stock is from achieving its ideal or sustainable yield, which can help fisheries managers determine how best to manage their stock to increase yields. In the past, stocks received a pass or fail, which sometimes results in missing the opportunity to deliver greater economic and nutritional benefits to people.”

The authors note their findings hold significant promise for communities who are particularly dependent on seafood, but who have stocks that are not part of large-scale monitoring efforts.

“All of the attention can’t be focused on the major fisheries for the export market — there must also be an emphasis on getting the best results from local fisheries that feed local people,” said Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy and lead author of the paper.

“Demand for seafood from a protein-hungry and growing middle class will need to be met by far more sustainable supply within this generation, and we believe understanding data-limited fisheries will be critical for establishing more sustainable supply chains,” explained Sabine Miltner, program director for the Moore Foundation’s conservation and markets initiatives. “We’re grateful for this important progress on alternative, and perhaps more efficient, means to gaining that understanding.”

To learn more about Conservation International’s work with fisheries, visit the Human Nature blog.

About The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit or follow @MooreFound.

About Conservation International

Conservation International uses science, policy and partnerships to protect the nature people rely on for food, fresh water and livelihoods. Founded in 1987, Conservation International works in more than 30 countries on six continents to ensure a healthy, prosperous planet that supports us all.Learn more about Conservation International and its groundbreaking “Nature Is Speaking” campaign, and follow Conservation International’s work on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.