Marine scientists call for fishing ban in 20% of global seas

One hundred and fifty of the world’s leading marine scientists have called for the creation of specially protected marine parks covering as much as 20% of the Earth’s seas, in an attempt to halt alarming decreases in stocks.

The scientists released their joint call for vast no-go areas for fishing at the annual meeting of the American Association of Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco on 17 February. They see the creation of parks as the only way to increase worryingly low stocks of many species, such as several tuna species and cod, which they say has declined by 90% in recent years. The European Commission has decided to lower the total allowable catch within EU waters, to protect dangerously low stocks of cod and whiting (see related story) and a recent report found that inadequate, and sometimes illegal, government policies towards subsidies were causing over-fishing of the world’s oceans (see related story). In the week following the conference, US conservation groups warned that last year the number of endangered fish species jumped from 98 to 107, a record high and including popular commercial and sport fish, like red snapper, summer flounder and Atlantic swordfish.

At the moment, only 0.01% of the world’s seas are fully protected from any kind of fishing, and after more than two years study, the results in these areas have been “startling” according to scientists. Population densities in protected areas were found to be an average 91% higher than in unprotected areas, the average species size was 31% larger and species diversity was 23% greater. An example of this is the Leigh Marine Reserve in northern New Zealand, numbers of snapper fish and spring lobster have increased significantly.

The scientists say that fishermen will benefit both in the long and medium term, with high catches resulting from trawling the edge of marine reserves.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie