Traditional fisheries management approach jeopardizes marine ecosystems worldwide, expert argues

In  a Perspectives article published online in the Oct. 26 issue of the journalScience, Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch, executive director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science and professor at Stony Brook University, cautions against continuing traditional fisheries management

According to Dr. Pikitch, current and recent studies demonstrate the need for “a more precautionary approach to fisheries management, in which fishing is restricted to those places and amounts where it can be conducted safely and with minimal risk of jeopardizing the integrity of marine ecosystems.”

Commenting on a study published in the same issue by Costello et al., which found that globally, the abundance levels of fish populations are well below those recommended by conventional fisheries management guidelines, Dr. Pikitch writes, “Of even greater concern, most species are on a continuing trajectory of decline.” Costello et al. found that fisheries that represent 80 percent of the world’s catch are in worse shape than those than those on which global status reviews have been conducted. Dr. Pikitch writes, “Costello et al.’s findings are even more alarming in the context of the evolving understanding of fishing and its ecological effects.” Dr. Pikitch explains that traditional fisheries management focuses on obtaining maximum sustainable yield (MSY), which is a single-species approach that does not take into consideration the effects of the fishing on the entire ecosystem, including declines of other fish and marine animal species.

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