Thursday, October 19, 2006

Fishing worsens boom & bust cycles for fish

California's sardines have another story to tell. If we listen, we may have to change the way we manage fishing.

A new study shows that fishing worsens boom and bust cycles for fish, including boom and bust cycles triggered by changing ocean conditions. This happens because fishing removes the biggest fish, and the big ones are critically important for reproduction during the tough years.

What can we do? Find new ways to manage fishing so that we don't catch all of the biggest fish. That could include setting aside some areas where big fish can thrive unmolested. Other options include catching fewer fish or developing new fishing methods that lets the big ones get away.

It's fascinating to see another layer of insight added to the well-studied California sardine fishery collapse in the middle of the last century. First it was overfishing, then ocean conditions were blamed, and now we're back to a focus on overfishing.


FishFinder said...

I find it interesting when folks like the RFA guys in New Jersey make a plea that their fishing activities should not be curtailed because of depletion in a fish stock due to environmental conditions. This is not our fault, I hear them say, and so we should be allowed to fish at levels that scientists identify as unsustainable. From where I sit, a depleted stock is a depleted stock no matter the cause, and our harvest strategies should be guided by the ultimate safety of the resource.

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