Fishing less, and better, could generate an additional $83-billion each year for the fisheries sector, creating a much-needed revenue stream in developing countries and improving global food security, a new report by the World Bank states.
The ‘Sunken Billions Revisited’ report, an update of a 2009 study, shows that reducing fishing globally would allow fish stocks to recover from overexploitation and lead to increases in the weight, value and price of fish landed, boosting the profitability of the fisheries sector from an estimated $3-billion to $86-billion a year.
“Global marine fisheries are in crisis. The proportion of fisheries that are fully fished, overfished, depleted or recovering from overfishing increased from just over 60% in the mid-1970s to about 75% in 2005 and to almost 90% in 2013. Biological overfishing has led to economic overfishing, which creates economic losses,” the report stated.
The latest study showed that reducing the global fishing effort would also lead to more fish being caught and landed, because stocks would have recovered to healthier levels, thus, helping meet growing global demand for seafood and improving food security in many countries around the world.
Hypothetically, it stated that if the fishing effort were reduced to zero for the first several years and then held at an optimal level, global stocks could quickly recover to over 600-million tonnes in five years and then taper off toward an ideal level. Reducing the global fishing effort by 5% a year for ten years would allow global stocks to reach this ideal level in about 30 years.
"This study confirms what we have seen in different country contexts: giving the oceans a break pays off. Moving toward more sustainable fisheries management, through approaches that are tailored to local conditions, can yield significant benefits for food security, poverty reduction and long-term growth," said World Bank sustainable development VP Laura Tuck.
The bio-economic model used in the ‘Sunken Billions Revisited’ report – produced by University of Iceland economics professor Ragnar Arnason – treats the world's marine fisheries as one large fishery. It examines the mismatch between the increasingly high level of effort put into fishing and stagnant or even declining fish catches, and calculates the incremental benefits that could be derived from global fisheries reform.
ASIA AND AFRICA NEED REFORMS
In Asia and Africa, most fisheries appear to be vastly overexploited, with substantial growth in fish consumption forecast until 2030, while Oceania’s total catch is likely to be below the maximum sustainable yield level.
While subject to greater uncertainty than global estimates, the study’s regional analysis suggests that if the fishing industry were to adopt more sustainable fishing practices, it would benefit Asian and African countries, including countries like China that possess large fishing fleets, the most.