Melnychuk, Michael C.; Peterson, Emily; Elliott, Matt; Hilborn, Ray. 2017. Fisheries management impacts on target species status. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. (Abstract) (Online version)
Fisheries management systems around the world are highly diverse in their design, operation, and effectiveness at meeting objectives. A variety of management institutions, strategies, and tactics are used across disparate regions, fishing fleets, and taxonomic groups. At a global level, it is unclear which particular management attributes have greatest influence on the status of fished populations, and also unclear which external factors affect the overall success of fisheries management systems. We used expert surveys to characterize the management systems by species of 28 major fishing nations and examined influences of economic, geographic, and fishery-related factors. A Fisheries Management Index, which integrated research, management, enforcement, and socioeconomic attributes, showed wide variation among countries and was strongly affected by per capita gross domestic product (positively) and capacity-enhancing subsidies (negatively). Among 13 management attributes considered, three were particularly influential in whether stock size and fishing mortality are currently in or trending toward desirable states: extensiveness of stock assessments, strength of fishing pressure limits, and comprehensiveness of enforcement programs. These results support arguments that the key to successful fisheries management is the implementation and enforcement of science-based catch or effort limits, and that monetary investment into fisheries can help achieve management objectives if used to limit fishing pressure rather than enhance fishing capacity. Countries with currently less-effective management systems have the greatest potential for improving long-term stock status outcomes and should be the focus of efforts to improve fisheries management globally.