Cleaning up our act

Stock depletion is not always the result of fishing (or overfishing). Therefore, the default solution to rebuilding stocks should not be to further restrict fishing. Cod quotas have been low for two decades, and yet the cod are not flourishing. Logic, therefore, tells us the problem with cod is not fishing alone.

It’s an understandable knee-jerk reaction to blame low stocks on fishermen and just keep hammering them until the stocks rebuild. But we now know enough about runoff, dead zones, coastal development, climate change and ocean acidification to expand our horizons in search of solutions. If beating down fishermen doesn’t work to bring back the fish, then we’re putting people out of business with no perceivable benefit.

Giving fishermen and fishery managers some flexibility is one step toward improving management of the industry. And it might just give us a window into fish behavior with better data. Win-win.

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