The COVID-19 pandemic has created an exceptional crisis for fishing communities and the fishing industry as a whole.Since March 11, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, global fishing activity has been down by nearly 10% compared to the 2018-2019 average, according to a new estimate, and in some places the decline has been much greater.But it’s difficult to tell whether the global fishing slowdown will give marine life a chance to recover, experts say.Factors include the duration and timing of the slowdown, as well as whether illegal fishing may rebound in the absence of enforcement. When World War II broke out in 1939, it triggered an unintended fisheries experiment in the North Sea. Fishing vessels stayed away from fear of being blown up by naval minefields and aerial attacks, ships were requisitioned for war, and sailors drafted. With most fishing paused for the next six years, the North Sea, spanning 575,000 square kilometres, or 222,000 square miles, was turned into an “accidental marine protected area,” researchers wrote in a study published in 2010. The results of the “experiment” were revealing: previously overexploited fish, such as cod, haddock and whiting, rapidly replenished, their sizes increased, and their catch, immediately after the war, shot up. Today, there’s another unprecedented fishing “pause” at play in the oceans. To curtail the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world have constrained people’s movements, which has taken a toll on marine fisheries. Supply chains fragmented, markets closed, fish imports declined, sales dwindled and fewer fishing vessels are reportedly out at sea. For fishing communities and the industry as a whole, this is an exceptional crisis. But could the fishing slowdown give marine life a chance to recover?