Global fisheries forego more than $80bn annually of overfishing

21Feb 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Global fisheries forego more than $80bn annually of overfishing

A new World Bank report has revealed that because of overfishing, global fisheries forego more than$80 billion a year, compared to an optimal scenario.

Fishmongers prepare fish for sale at the Dar es Salaam International Fish Market.

The report “The Sunken Billions Revisited: Progress and Challenges in Global Marine Fisheries” says that overexploitation is not a good strategy to manage a renewable natural resource like fish stocks, for steady profits, reliable jobs and long-term growth.

It said that for global fisheries as a whole, about $83 billion were foregone in 2012, compared to a more optimal scenario, largely because of overfishing.

The report, which uses a bio-economic model developed by Professor Ragnar Arnason of the University of Iceland, is an update of a 2009 study published by the World Bank and the FAO, called The Sunken Billions: The Economic Justification for Fisheries Reform.

By explicitly quantifying the potential economic benefit forgone in global marine fisheries, The Sunken Billions underscored the urgency of improving marine fisheries governance and generated additional momentum toward restoring overexploited fish stocks.

Since then, the World Bank and partners have worked with numerous countries to help put fisheries on a more sustainable path. Below are five snapshots from recent or ongoing efforts that showcase different paths to arrive at sustainable development in this sector.

Peru is home to one of the world’s largest single stock fishery – the anchoveta -- a species related to anchovy, which supplies fish oil rich in omega-3 and fishmeal for livestock and aquaculture around the world.

Since farmed fish now accounts for more than half of all seafood production, the abundance of the anchoveta is critical for food security.

However, vast overfishing and periodic changes in currents linked to recurring El Niño events in the Pacific Ocean made the anchoveta population highly vulnerable to shocks and stock collapse, endangering a valuable industry for the Peruvian economy.

Starting in 2009, the Bank partnered with the Government of Peru through a series of Environmental Development Policy Loans to ensure the sustainability of anchoveta resources, strengthen the management of the sector and reduce overcapacity in the fishing fleet, while easing the transition of people employed in the sector into other economic activities.

Since a quota system was established, extraction of anchoveta has not exceeded the annual catch limits established by a Peruvian scientific body to keep the fishery sustainable. Between 2008 and 2015, close to 300 fishing vessels were retired, representing a quarter of the original anchoveta fleet.

With the resulting decrease in fishing pressure, independent fishermen and industrial fishing vessels were able to capture larger fish, increase the quality of fishmeal, and obtain higher prices.

Moving from unfettered open access to a more regulated system has also lengthened the fishing season (thereby increasing the days worked by vessel crews and reducing physical risks), reduced pollution in ports, and supported investments in higher-value activities.

Fishing companies that remained in the anchoveta sector but reduced their fleet offered rotating assignments to their workers and compensated those who chose to exit the sector.

The next phase of World Bank support in Peru will support applied research that advances innovation in aquaculture and small scale fisheries, where much remains to be done to promote sustainable fishing of species for human consumption.

At a time when many economies are exhausting their natural resources and face constraints exacerbated by climate change, Morocco is setting an example by embracing green growth strategies across sectors, including energy, waste, agriculture and fisheries.

The World Bank has supported Morocco’s vision by providing financing in the form of Development Policy Loans, investment projects, and technical assistance. Although the impacts of climate change on fisheries loom large on the horizon, at present the main threat to growth in the sector lies in the illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices that threaten fish population renewal and the livelihoods of about half a million Moroccans.

Fishing represents a culture and a critical source of livelihoods and nutrition in West Africa, yet many fishing communities live in poverty.

The World Bank’s West Africa Regional Fisheries Program (WARFP), launched in 2010, aims to increase the economic contribution of marine resources through strengthened fisheries management and governance, reduced illegal fishing, and increased local value added to fish products.

The governments of Sierra Leone and Liberia created 6 mile zones dedicated to small-scale fishing communities where trawlers and other large-scale boats would not be allowed to fish, and formed multi-agency monitoring centers to improve the enforcement of rules.

In Liberia, fishers were also equipped with GPS-enabled cameras to take photos of illegal trawlers. As a result, illegal fishing declined and nearshore fish stocks recovered to the benefit of local artisanal fishers.

According to a study published by the Overseas Development Institute, Senegal lost about 2 percent of its GDP to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in 2012. With support from WARFP, Senegal enacted new laws for a sensible and sustainable utilization of fisheries resources, including community-led fisheries management.

The country also launched a campaign to register and maintain an updated database of its fishing boats - some 19,000 boats in a first phase- as a step toward better control and management of access in the artisanal fishing sector.

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