The populations of many fish stocks such as tuna and mackerel have declined more than 50% since 1970. Now a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has proposed sustainable management reforms that could rescue fisheries while helping the fishermen make more money. All this could be done in less than a decade if global action is taken.
Researchers analyzed data from 4,713 fisheries
Scientists from the University of Washington, University of California – Santa Barbara, and the Environmental Defense Fund analyzed data from 4,713 fisheries worldwide. These fisheries represent 78% of global reported fish catch. Lead author Christopher Costello said business as usual will result in a “continued collapse for many of the world’s fisheries.”
The sustainable management reforms recommended by scientists could generate annual increases of 16 million metric tons (MMT) in catch, 619 million metric tons in biomass, and annual profits of $53 billion. With better fishing practices, 77% of the world’s fisheries could recover to a healthy state in ten years, and 98% by 2050. It will increase the profits of the world’s fishermen by 204% by 2050.
The recommended solution includes rights-based fishery management, where fishing quotas are fixed to ensure healthy population levels. As a result, the product price goes up due to higher quality and demand. Fishing costs also go down because of a reduced race to fish. The rights-based fishery management is implemented through territorial rights, cooperatives, and individual transferable quotas.
Currently, there is a ‘race to fish’
Under the current management systems, there is a ‘race to fish’ among fishermen. The fish are caught faster than they can reproduce. In the fishing rights system, each fisherman is granted rights to a percentage of the total allocated haul. When the number of fish in the ocean rises, the number that fishermen can catch is revised. It gives fishermen an incentive to police their own waters and use best practices.
However, implementation of these reforms will have short-term costs, mainly related to financing the program. If fishermen pull back to introduce rights-based reforms, their profits could decline while food prices could go up. But they will be able to get their money back in 10 years.