Fish reproduce within isolated "stocks" — overfishing of one may not hurt another. Research to be discussed at the WFC suggests that the Pacific's two main swordfish stocks really act more like one. If that's convincing enough, quotas could be reset to protect the fish.
Few species need help more than the slow-growing bluefin tuna. Its numbers have plunged 90% over the past 30 years as the global appetite for sushi has soared: Wholesale buyers in Japan will pay more than $100,000 for a choice bluefin.
Strict management has made Alaska's salmon fishery one of the world's healthiest. Even in a slow year like 2008, the catch will near 130 million salmon, a fivefold jump over the past 50 years. Another model: Maine's 70-million-pound, $320 million lobster fishery.
Yes, we know. Whales aren't fish. But the WFC will have a session on cetaceans. It's especially sensitive since Japan is still exploiting a scientific-research exception in the 22-year-old global moratorium on harvesting whales. This season, it caught 551 minkes.
Scientists' understanding of seamounts, the Himalayas of the oceans, hasn't kept up with the technology that targets their residents. For example, the resilience of the orange roughy, whose flaky fillets are sold everywhere from Trader Joe's to Omaha Steaks, was wildly overestimated. Some Pacific stocks have plunged 85%.
Aquaculture is big business — about $63 billion in farmed seafood is eaten each year — but it can be dirty. In Southeast Asia, which produces 50% of the shrimp Americans eat, mangroves are cut down to make room for shrimp pens, and diseases, such as white-spot syndrome, threaten to wipe out entire farms.
Eels aren't pretty. Perhaps suffering from that bad serpentine image — as well as a too-tasty reputation in European and Asian seafood houses — eels have escaped public notice as a struggling species until recently. Now the E.U. has proposed that they be listed as threatened, and the WFC will hold a session on how to manage the long, slimy fishes.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2008 issue of Fast Company magazine.