It's clear that the world’s fishstocks are in trouble, but what's the cost of decades of mismanagement? A new World Bank/FAO study puts the price tag at $50 billion dollars a year, or $2 trillion over the last three decades.
This isn’t just another doom and gloom study; the report's actually hopeful that the “economic hemorrhage” in this “underperforming global asset” can be transformed into one that creates “an economic surplus and….a driver of economic growth.”
So how do we get there? Catch shares, a fisheries management system that has picked up a lot of momentum recently as people recognize how well they work.
A study in Science magazine last month was the most authoritative validation to date of this approach. After examining 11,000 fisheries around the world, researchers found that those with catch share were much healthier, fishermen were at less risk from accidents, and the impact on other species was significantly reduced. Catch shares go beyond just keeping a good fishery healthy. They can even rebuild depleted fish stocks.
Catch shares work by allotting shares of the overall catch to individual fishermen, boats or fishing groups. Shares can be sold or rented, which gives fishermen a direct stake in the future of the fishery. The better the fish stock, the more valuable the fishermen’s shares.
For decades, scientists have shown how overfishing was killing off wild fish populations at a huge environmental and social cost. Now economists have put a price tag on the problem. And recently yet more scientists have shown us how catch shares can solve the problem. We know what’s at stake, we know what it’s costing us and we know how to fix it. So can we get on with it already?
- Tim Fitzgerald, Environmental Defense Fund