But at this year's AAAS meeting, fisheries scientists are getting together to tell fish tales with happy endings. There's good news about fish? You bet there is, says Joshua Cinner, who studies marine reserves at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia. And he and other scientists are realizing that they need to start talking that up. "If people get bombarded all the time with this bad news, they're going to stop caring," says Cinner. "We've seen some good decisions, and we want to make people aware of them."
So what's the good news?
In the northeastern United States, haddock stocks have made a giant comeback. In 1994, fishermen had to struggle to catch their limit of 400 pounds of haddock in a day --"and 400 pounds isn't very much fish," says biologist Andrew Rosenberg of the University of New Hampshire, Durham. After a decade of restrictions on fishing, haddock have bounced back; now the daily limit per ship is 30,000 pounds.
Success stories like the haddock's make it clear that the world's fisheries problems aren't all insurmountable. "I'm personally not a fan of the idea that you can take a success somewhere and replicate it somewhere else," says Cinner--one solution does not fit all. But he does think it's useful to look for lessons and patterns of effective management.
Above all, though, he wants the public to hear the happy news. If you believe that all fish are doomed, says Cinner, "you just want to loot everything." If people know that some fish have been saved, there's a reason to hold back.