Many people see fisheries as an infinite resource, however, this is not the case. Each species of fish is part of a delicate biological system, and as such, requires careful management. Species interact in regards to predator-prey relationships, and in competition for resources. By reducing the populations of certain species, significant negative effects can occur throughout the ecosystem. With proper resource management, commercial and recreational fisheries can be maintained at sustainable levels.
Traditionally, fishery management practices have been based solely on the catch levels of the target species. This approach fails to take into account the trophic relationships which occur within the ecosystem, natural fluctuations in fish populations, and the age structure of the populations. If juveniles become overexploited, the chances of a species recovering from overfishing are limited.
Current management methods which are being implemented in fisheries include seasonal restrictions, catch limits, size limits, gear restrictions, area closures, and limits on the number of days boats can be at sea. These strategies are designed to reduce fishing pressure, which should allow depleted stocks to rebuild. Size limits and gear restrictions, such as limits on net mesh size, will allow smaller fish to live until they are able to reproduce.
Obviously, more research on the interactions of marine species is necessary before we can fully understand the consequences of fishing and determine the most effective management practices. In the meantime, restrictions which will protect fish stocks are essential so that biodiversity can be preserved and fishing can remain a viable industry in the future.
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