Boats in a harbor.
Chris Anderson/University of Washington
Fishing boats in a harbor in Kodiak, Alaska

Fish populations tend to do better in places where rigorous fisheries management practices are used, and the more measures employed, the better for fish populations and food production, according to a new paper published Jan. 11 in Nature Sustainability.

The study, led by Michael Melnychuk of the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, draws upon the expertise of more than two dozen researchers from 17 regions around the world. The research team analyzed the management practices of nearly 300 fish populations to tease out patterns that lead to healthier fisheries across different locations. Their findings confirmed, through extensive data analysis, what many researchers have argued for several years.

“In general, we found that more management attention devoted to fisheries is leading to better outcomes for fish and shellfish populations,” Melnychuk said. “While this won’t be surprising to some, the novelty of this work was in assembling the data required and then using statistical tools to reveal this pattern across hundreds of marine populations.”

The study builds on previous work that found, by using the same database, that nearly half of the fish caught worldwide are from populations that are scientifically monitored and, on average, are increasing in abundance. The new paper takes a closer look at specific management actions and how they have impacted fishing pressure and the abundance of each population examined, Melnychuk explained.

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