Our ocean’s fisheries are in a bleak state. Despite 3 billion people relying on seafood as a key source of protein, around 85 percent of global fish stocks are over-exploited. But an increasing number of mouths to feed isn't even half of the story. According to a new study, the seemingly doomed fate of fish stocks could be avoided if we remove old-hat economic management models and replace them with scientifically informed incentives.
The study used extensive data on 4,713 fisheries – around 78 percent of the world’s total fish stock – and then plugged it through “state-of-the-art bioeconomic models” that looked at the effect on fish populations, given different scenarios and policies.
The group of researchers from the Environmental Defense Fund, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Washington recently published their findings in PNAS.
Their report argues that fishing practices should be driven by scientifically-defined catch limits, as opposed to short-term, purely economic-driven initiatives.
“When fishermen are encouraged to race against each other, they end up overfishing,” Amanda Leland, senior vice president for Oceans at Environmental Defense Fund, told Gizmodo. “They get lower prices, and they often have to throw a whole bunch of fish back dead. It’s a maddening situation.”
Within these short, sharp binges of competitive fishing, the stocks have a hard time recovering and ultimately lead to smaller yields, smaller profits, and depleted fisheries. However, this could be resolved if a system of fishing rights and catch-limits was created based on knowledge of fish stock recovery rates.
Fisheries across Australia, Belize, Chile, Denmark, Namibia, and the United States have already imposed stricter fishing rights and scientifically-based catch quotas with great success.
If these new regulations and rules were implemented today, they estimate the number of “biologically healthy" fish populations could grow from 47 percent to 77 percent globally within just 10 years. But not only that, they also argue that this could lead to 204 percent increase in profits for fishermen by 2050.
In a statement given to Huffington Post, Chris Costello, the paper’s lead author, said: “We no longer need to see ocean fisheries as a series of trade-offs.”
He added, “In fact, we show that we can have more fish in the water, more food on the plate, and more prosperous fishing communities — and it can happen relatively quickly.”