World Bank: Less Fishing Would Yield More Money
According to a new report from the World Bank, less means more – at least when it comes to fishing.
In "Sunken Billions Revisited: Progress and Challenges in Global Marine Fisheries," researchers with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the University of Iceland and UC-Santa Barbara have updated a previous World Bank study on the state of the world's fishing industry, and they have come up with a surprising top-line number: the global economy sustains over $80 billion a year in losses due to less-than-ideal fisheries management.
During its last review, in 2009, the World Bank estimated that an ever-increasing trend towards overfishing cost the global economy over $50 billion per year. At that time, fishing activity was up fourfold compared with levels in the early 1990s, with twice as many boats and three times as many fishermen, and productivity was in decline. This new review adds a fine-grained regional analysis and an examination of social factors to the original study, and it finds even larger losses.
The authors contend that "reform of fisheries governance and a period of years during which fish stocks would be allowed to recover" would improve economic yields. However, they acknowledge that even if reforms happened immediately, fish stocks would not rebound right away, and the reduced catches would impose "large transition costs" on the fishing industry. If fishermen and their societies could tolerate the near-term pain from a "drastic reduction in the level of fishing effort," the authors say, they would reap significant gains, including:
- an increase in harvests exceeding 10 percent;
- an increase in price per fish of up to 25 percent, depending on species;
- a nearly threefold increase in fish biomass;
- improved resilience to any future damage from climate change;
- and $86 billion per year in additional net benefits (including cost savings from less fishing)
The report contends that these gains are achievable in thirty years if global fishing intensity is cut back by just five percent, or in a much shorter period (with much more disruption) if the changes are implemented abruptly. However, the gains would vary by region: fully two thirds of the added value would accrue to Asian fisheries, which are the world's largest and least efficient. For more information, the full report is available here.