Public Release: 

Global ocean's fish populations could double while providing more food and income

New research shows 77 percent of world's fisheries can be healthy in a decade

Environmental Defense Fund

Groundbreaking research being published in the March 29th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows the majority of the world's fisheries could be recovered in just 10 years, and that global fish populations could double by 2050 with better fishing practices compared to business as usual. The peer-reviewed study is authored by researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara, The University of Washington and Environmental Defense Fund.

The recovery of struggling fisheries would bring a significant increase in the amount of seafood that could be caught over time to feed the world's growing population. Three billion people worldwide rely on seafood as a key source of protein and about 260 million people work in fishery-related sectors, many of whom live in developing countries.

If reforms were implemented today, the percentage of fisheries in the world that are considered biologically healthy would grow from around 47 percent today to 77 percent within just 10 years.

In addition to recovering fish populations and improved food security, the projected impact of these reforms would mean a 204 percent increase in profits for fishermen by 2050.

These powerful conclusions emerged from an analysis using a massive database of 4,713 fisheries that represent 78 percent of the ocean's catch. That's far more precise and granular than previous analyses.

The results suggest that institutional reforms, like the implementation of secure fishing rights would yield the most significant results for the world's fisheries. Fishing rights, which end the desperate race for fish by asking fishermen and women to adhere to strict, science-based catch limits in exchange for a right to a share of the catch or to a traditional fishing area, are already being used to great effect in places like Australia, Belize, Chile, Denmark, Namibia, and the United States.


The study and interviews are available on an embargoed basis. Please contact Valerie Holford, consultant to Environmental Defense Fund, for details. +301-926-1298 or

Co-Authors on the paper available for interviews include:

  • Chris Costello, The University of California at Santa Barbara

  • Amanda Leland, Environmental Defense Fund

  • Ray Hilborn, The University of Washington

  • Steve Gaines, The University of California at Santa Barbara

  • Trevor Branch, The University of Washington

  • Douglas Rader, Environmental Defense Fund

  • Mike Melnychuk, The University of Washington

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