A landmark new study of the world's fisheries released yesterday found that management efforts — especially in developmentally advanced nations, notably in the United States, New Zealand and Iceland — have been effective in reversing declines caused by chronic overfishing.
The report, which appears in the issue of Science magazine on newsstands today, is no cause for celebration or let-up in the recovery programs, even in the most advanced systems. But it presents a more hopeful picture than previous alarmist predictions by the chief author, Boris Worm, and colleagues of his who have produced a welter of academic studies funded by the Pew Environment Group and associated environmental non-government organizations, or ENGOS.
Altogether, a team of 21 scientists from academia and government, many with extensive ties to Pew, worked two years on the study, titled "Rebuilding Global Fisheries." And its findings contrast sharply with previous findings by Pew and other ENGO scientists that suggested the oceans were so "overfished" that many stocks were on a path to extinction.
The headliners behind the new story are Worm and his former nemesis, Ray Hilborn, who had sharply criticized Worm's past work as being motivated by an anti-fishing agenda more than by true science.
A member of the faculty at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Worm's research and output has given rise to numerous documentaries and policy papers on overfishing that predicted the seas would be left sterile except for jellyfish by mid-century.
A major policy paper produced by the Environmental Defense Fund last year relied on Worm's vision to recommend catch quotas to the Obama administration as it was forming.
"There is a scientific consensus that fishing is fundamentally altering ocean ecosystems, which are increasingly likely to yield massive swarms of jellyfish rather than food fish," wrote that working group, which included Jane Lubchenco, now the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.