Study shows depleted fish stocks can come back from the brink

First thing I thought of when I read the title and first paragraph was “Yeah, RIGHT.” I was a pessimist until about halfway through when they started talking about the study design and assumptions (WHEW!).

So, a few Canadian scientists and professors came together and decided they wanted to learn more about fish stocks. They used a statistical modeling method used in medicine, called Survival Analysis. This method estimates how fast a patient will recover from a disease if given certain treatments. Sounds good, right? These fish scientists tweaked it. They wanted to see how fish stocks (the patient) would recover from over-exploitation (disease) when stricter management is applied (treatment). And what they found is pretty much as expected. If you take the pressure off, a population will bounce back. Of course this changes when considering the fecundity, life span and many other factors of a species.

But, the coolest part is that these fish populations could bounce back faster than we have estimated. One example of this would be the the summer flounder in the mid-Atlantic, off the US coast. One not-so-good example would be the Atlantic halibut – severely overfished and slow to reproduce.

“Nature is not as fragile as we might suppose,” Jensen said. “Just because a fish stock has been overexploited for a long time doesn’t mean we should give up on it.”

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