Comeback cod lessens gloom over emptying oceans

ABOARD HAUNES, Norwegian Sea,  (Reuters) – It was hours before dawn on a heaving Arctic sea, and snow showers were making it hard for Kurt Ludvigsen to find his fishing buoys with the trawler’s powerful searchlight.

But the 49-year-old Norwegian was less bothered by the conditions than by the large numbers of cod flailing in the nets he and his younger brother Trond winched aboard.

“It’s paradoxical but we have too many fish this year,” the older Ludvigsen said. “Prices have fallen 30 percent … We’re having to work far harder.”

Just over six years ago, an article in the U.S. journal Science projected that all fish and seafood species, on current trends, would collapse by 2048.

A cod bonanza off north Norway and Russia and recovery of some fish stocks off developed nations from the United States to Australia have led many scientists to say the future for over-fished world stocks is a bit less bleak.

Stocks off developing nations — from the Pacific to the Caribbean — are still in sharp decline but the recoveries give hope that the problems are not irreversible.

“The outlook is improving relative to what we saw in 2006,” said Boris Worm, a professor of biology at Dalhousie University in Canada who was the lead author of the 2006 study in Science.

“It’s more than isolated examples – it’s a substantial number” of successes, he said.
A lot is at stake. Fisheries, both marine and farmed, provide livelihoods for up to 820 million people, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which emphasises that globally, over-fishing is still on the rise.

Cod, the 11th most caught fish species in an FAO list led by the Peruvian anchovy, skipjack tuna and Atlantic herring, has had a mixed fate.

While a 1990s moratorium off eastern Canada is still in place and European Union quotas are unchanged this year, the quota off northern Norway and Russia is a record 1.02 million tonnes, up a third from 2012 and six times as high as in 1990.

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