When last this page quoted Boris Worm, a marine ecologist in Canada, in 2006, he was conjuring a frightening vision of a world without seafood. Overfishing, pollution and other depredations, he said, could obliterate almost all the ocean’s commercial fish species by 2048.
Last week, Dr. Worm, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, wrote in the journal Science that depleted fisheries can be saved if they are wisely managed, and that progress has already been made in five of 10 large fisheries where careful conservation measures are in place.
But what may be most encouraging about the new paper is how it came to be. It is a collaboration between Dr. Worm and a fisheries scientist who had been one of his sharpest critics in 2006 — Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington. Dr. Hilborn had accused Dr. Worm back then of cherry-picking facts and extrapolating wildly to reach baseless conclusions.
It was not a promising way to start a professional dialogue, but rather than hunker down in opposing camps, the two men met on a rich field of data. They agreed on new methods for assessing how many fish of a given species were being taken, compared with the total population. They compiled surveys and databases and other tools that both could agree on.
The authors not only reached agreement on the state of ocean fisheries — despite progress in some places, they said, about 63 percent of the fish stocks need rebuilding — but also on a course of action.
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