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How to make a sustainable fishery

Tue, 11th Jan 2011

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Researchers publishing in Nature have described the factors that make for a successful and sustainable fishery. It’s the first study to pull together data from papers and NGOs to come up with an idea of what is important in making certain fisheries more successful than others.

Fisherman, Saloum estuary, SenegalAt the moment, around a third of all the world’s fisheries are overexploited, but a huge number of people rely on fish as their main source of protein, particularly in the developing world. How to extract enough fish to make a fishery economically viable whilst at the same time not overexploiting it is a big challenge.

Nicolás Gutierrez and his colleagues from the University of Washington in Seattle looked at 130 co-managed fisheries, which means they are cooperatively managed by communities, managers and scientists, spread around the world.

They looked at what combinations of certain attributes made the fisheries successful, or not. These attributes were things like if there was strong social cohesion in the community managing the fishery, if there were protected areas, what type of fishery it was, the strength of the leadership behind the management of the fishery and so on. The attributes were then correlated with the ‘success score’ of the fishery, which was calculated by looking at factors like catch abundance and social and economic impacts of each fishery.

What they found was that the most important attribute for the success of a fishery was strong management leadership, followed by the presence of catch quotas, then the level of community cohesion and having protected areas.

Unsurprisingly, they also found that a fishery was more likely to be successful if it had more than 8 of the attributes present.

So, the study offers real hope for the sustainable future of fisheries – which, with the growing human population, is a very good thing.

Find out more

Nicolás L. Gutiérrez et al. (2011). Leadership, social capital and incentives promote successful fisheries. Nature.


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