Rosenberg, A. A., J. H. Swasey, and M. Bowman. 2006. Rebuilding US fisheries: progress and problems. Frontiers in and the Environment 4:303-308.
Rosenberg and friends here take us back to reality with a nice summary of rebuilding stocks in the US following the 1996 Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). Less than 5% of stocks have been rebuilt, while 82% are experiencing overfishing or are overfished. The sense I get in reading this article is that there are a lot of very good intentions in the 1996 MSA reauthorization, also known as the Sustainable Fisheries Act, but on the ground the work just isn’t being done. Ray Hilborn has argued here that the notion that traditional fisheries management has failed is an article of faith taken by conservation minded scientists and promulgated in what he calls “faith-based” assessments of fisheries generally published in Science and Nature. Rosenberg’s analysis might suggest the opposite – that our faith in legislation such as the MSA (and the expected responses of management to legislation) has blinded us to real failings in fisheries management. Rosenberg et al. do offer some hope – biomass in 48% of stocks is increasing, and those stocks that are rebuilding suggest the “importance of implementing large decreases in fishing mortality rates quickly.” So in some sense, we know what to do (all we are saying is give fish a chance), and we have the mandate in the 1996 MSA (and the 2006 re-authorization), we just need the will to do it.