A global policy shift could save our oceans' fish.

By Justine Sterling
Updated May 24, 2017
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There’s no denying it: Our oceans are in trouble. But we don’t have to turn to lab-grown shrimp quite yet. A new study says that if we change our basic fishing policies on a global level we could double the current population of wild edible fish by 2050.

A team of researchers at the Environmental Defense Fund, the University of California Santa Barbara and the University of Washington analyzed data on 4,713 fisheries around the world and figured out exactly what would have to change in order to prevent a total collapse. Their conclusion: Globally convert to a rights-based fishery management system.

What does that mean? Each individual fisherman would be given a share of a scientifically determined sustainable catch limit. By implementing a set limit, you take away the competitive nature of commercial fishing, which often results in overfishing, underpricing and food waste.

The concept isn’t new. Fisheries in the US, Australia, Belize and a few other countries have adopted the system over the past few years and have seen improvement. Recently, the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico took on a fishing rights management system and conditions quickly improved. “Each fisherman knew how much they could catch,” senior vice president for Oceans at Environmental Defense Fun Amanda Leland told Gizmodo. “They could go when the weather and market conditions are good, and they could slow down overall.”

Researchers understand that while the concept is simple, it won’t be easy to implement a new set of guidelines everywhere. “It’s really a political challenge,” Leland said. “Many of the countries that stand to benefit the most don’t have basic fisheries management in place.” But it will have to be done if we want to maintain any semblance of a seafood industry.