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By David Sims, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
February 11, 2009

In contrast to the litany of woes normally heard about the state of U.S. fish stocks, UNH professor Andrew Rosenberg outlined some fisheries management “success stories” at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Chicago Feb. 13.

Rosenberg, director of the Ocean Process Analysis Laboratory at the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, presented “Progress in Rebuilding U.S. Fisheries” at a news briefing.

“Rebuilding programs for fisheries can work and we have actually seen recoveries for some stocks,” says Rosenberg, who is the former deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.

According to Rosenberg, given that the biomass of 48 percent of stocks is increasing, it’s clear that if overfishing ends stocks will begin to recover.

“So the basic science behind the rebuilding programs isn’t just theory, it works,” says Rosenberg adding, “and we’ve had some real success in New England even though people point to the region as the poster child for fisheries collapse. We’ve had remarkable recovery in haddock and sea scallops, and other stocks are increasing.”

The North Sea and some areas of the U.S. West Coast are also seeing real recovery. However, Rosenberg points out, one part that’s often missing in the success stories is the restructuring of the fishing industry itself, which needs to occur in tandem with a recovered stock.

“In some cases you’ve got more fish but the industry is still struggling, and that’s largely because people want things to go back to the way they were in 1970s or 1980s. That’s not happening and it’s never going to happen,” says Rosenberg, who also served as the NMFS Northeast Regional Administrator from 1995 to 1998.

He adds, “The simple message out of this is that the recovery of human communities is much more difficult than the recovery of natural communities. There are lots of discussions going on about restructuring the way a fishery operates, which should then enable coastal communities to move toward sustainability, but that’s the area that needs more focus.”

At a Census of Marine Life session of the AAAS meeting, Rosenberg will also give a presentation on the importance of biodiversity as an indicator of ecosystem health – an important factor for policymakers to consider as they seek to implement an ecosystem-based approach to management.

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