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Study Finds Some Ocean Fisheries Are Recovering

Scientists revisit a 2006 warning that the seas could be almost empty by the middle of the century. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Three years ago, a study of overfishing led to sharp debate. It warned that the world's ocean fish could be almost gone by the middle of the century. Now, a new study offers more hope. It shows that the risk of fisheries collapse has recently decreased in some areas -- some, but not all.

BORIS WORM: "This means different regions are heading in different directions and some regions have indeed begun to eliminate overfishing."

Boris Worm at Dalhousie University in Canada and Ray Hilborn at the University of Washington in Seattle were lead authors of the new study.

Professor Worm also led the earlier study published in two thousand six. Professor Hilborn publicly disagreed with those findings. The result: the two scientists agreed to work together on a new study.

They led a team that studied ten areas. In five of them, the rate at which fish are being taken out of the sea has dropped to a level that should let the populations recover. Three areas still had overfishing, but corrective measures have begun.

Yet, in all, almost two-thirds of fish populations studied worldwide still need rebuilding.

Only two areas did not have an overfishing problem in either the new study or the earlier one. They are New Zealand and the American state of Alaska.

The new study found that overfishing has been reduced in Canada's Newfoundland-Labrador area and in Iceland and southern Australia. It also found improvements in the northeastern United States and the California Current that flows south along the West Coast.

The study found that better controls are still needed in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Bay of Biscay between France and Spain.

The findings from two years of research appear in the journal Science.

Using nets that let smaller fish escape and agreeing not to fish in certain areas can help reduce overfishing. The study showed that these measures helped fish populations grow in Kenya.

But one of the authors of the study, Tim McClanahan from the Wildlife Conservation Society, says fisheries in Africa face another threat. Most countries in Africa, he says, are selling fishing rights to industrialized nations which catch large amounts of seafood.

The study shows what happened when industrialized nations increased restrictions on fishing in their own waters. Seafood companies moved their boats to developing countries with fewer restrictions.

And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson with Steve Baragona. I’m Bob Doughty.