Improved high seas management need to protect coastal fisheries

Written by on September 7, 2016 in Fish, Policy & Ocean Law

New research shows that closing fisheries in the high seas could increase catches in coastal waters by 10 percent. The high seas — defined as areas outside the jurisdiction of any country — make up about two-thirds of the ocean’s surface.

Open ocean.

Open ocean. Photo credit: Emily Tripp.

“Many important fish stocks live in both the high seas and coastal waters. Effective management of high seas fisheries could benefit coastal waters in terms of productivity and help reduce climate change impacts,” lead author William Cheung of the University of British Columbia (UBC) said in a news release.

Used computer models, researchers predicted catches of 30 of those stocks in the year 2050 under three different scenarios: maintaining the current system, international cooperation to manage high seas fishing, and closing the high seas to fishing altogether.

They found that both changes increased the resilience of coastal countries to climate change, particularly countries in the South Pacific, Indo-Pacific, West African coast, and the west coast of central America. Previous UBC research has shown that these countries could see at 30% decrease in fish stocks if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.

“The high seas can serve as a fish bank of the world by providing the insurance needed to make the whole global ocean more resilient,” said co-author and UBC professor Rashid Sumaila. “By closing the high seas to fishing or seriously improving its management, the high seas can help us mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems.”

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Copyright © 2016 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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