Since the year 2000, It has been argued that fish populations have been reduced in the NE Atlantic. Now the scientific evidence is coming down in favour of limited fishing, and necessarily of course, continued vigilance on overfishing. Although the tragic cod case still rankles, the majority of the species being checked were maintaining their population in a sustainable way. Since 2002, reforms have helped fish to recover while causing anguish to the fishermen. It's obvious that both have to be taken care of, otherwise another Icelandic cod war could break out.
There is a mixed picture of the fish stocks. The EU has a Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which is at the centre of disputes. The overall biomass of stocks has increased as the pressure from fishing has been visibly reduced. Fishermen can only benefit from these increased stocks, while having suffered while "fishing effort" was reduced.
However the cod discards seem to be a major factor in everybody's arguments. The large number of fish caught, then forcibly put back into the sea hasn't helped the tortured cod populations around the North Sea or more oceanic stretches of the Atlantic. Quotas need to be upheld without that traditional but awful wastage. If we lose the cod species because we can't argue our way out of a bag of chips, the tragedy will be complete.
Paul Fernandes and Robin Cook of the University of Aberdeen published the paper in the journal Current Biology, reporting on the status of 57 species over a 60 year period. The data indicates that since the CFP report in 2002, the "fishing reduction" has coincided with population improvements.
As Robin Cook says, "In the last few decades there has been some success at reducing fleet size and the number of days that vessels fish for. But that has to stay that way - if you don't do that things will just deteriorate to where they were in the past."
So there is hope, but those who would greedily take the last fish from the precious resource that the ocean is must pay a price.