World Fisheries Sustainability Lecture

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In February, Professor Ray Hilborn of the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, and author of Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press), in Honolulu addressed the topic of “Sustainability of World Fisheries: Getting good science understood.”

His presentation resonated with the audience of fishery scientists, managers and fishermen gathered in the conference room of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

Hilborn reviewed the litany of gloom and doom articles in the scientific literature and media that have led the public to believe that most fisheries are unsustainably managed, stocks worldwide are declining and fishing destroys the environment.

Frustration over these often cited erroneous articles led him to organize a network of scientists who have evaluated trends in global fish stocks under the CFOOD project (

Much of the negative reporting, e.g., all fish stocks will collapse by 2048, has already been extensively refuted, Hilborn said, yet it still lingers in the press.

CFOOD identifies these reports and provides a forum for rapid-response by renowned fishery scientists, marine biologists, ecologists and natural resource managers.

CFOOD also provides analysis and commentary on the latest emerging fisheries science and sets the record straight through a science-based approach to communicating the real story on fisheries sustainability.

The network of scientists has surveyed the fisheries of 10 species in 28 countries, in five dimensions: research, management, enforcement, socioeconomics, and stock status.

The study revealed that countries with adequate elements of the five dimensions have sustainable fisheries management resulting in healthy to rebuilding fish stocks.

Countries with the most sustainable fisheries are the United States, Iceland, Norway, Russia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Those at the bottom of the list are Myamar, Thailand, Brazil, China, Bangladesh, Philippines and Indonesia.

The scientists have also investigated and refuted claims cited by the media and environmental groups regarding other fishery issues, such as trawling (, forage fish ( and marine protected areas (MPAs).

He noted that the $200 million that has been spent on MPAs is not efficient use of funds if the goal is sustainability as MPAs are effective only in overfished situations. Nonetheless, Hilborn said he is optimistic.

Foundations and non-government organizations have begun to fund his projects. They are also beginning to acknowledge that spending 90 percent of philanthropic funding on developed countries is ineffective when the sustainable fisheries problem is in the undeveloped countries.

Hilborn encourages scientists and the fishing industry to communicate to the public, not only through the traditional avenues of scientific papers and print media, but also through e-media and by presenting at a variety of conferences and meetings.

source: Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council