GLOBE Foundation

Turning the tide on falling fish stocks


Source: GLOBE Foundation

Investing around US$8 billion a year in rebuilding and greening the world's fisheries could raise catches to 112 million tonnes annually while triggering benefits to industry, consumers and the global economy totalling US$1.7 trillion over the next 40 years. 

These are among the findings of a new, landmark report being compiled by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and economists entitled the Green Economy- part of which was previewed today in New York. 

The investment, some of which can be covered by phasing down or phasing out some of the US$27 billion-worth of fishing subsides currently in place, is needed to dramatically reduce the excess capacity of the world's fishing fleets while supporting workers in alternative livelihoods.

Fisheries-Facts and Figures

  • It is estimated that there are currently 35 million fishers and more than 20 million boats actively engaged in fishing.
  • Fisheries directly and indirectly support 170 million jobs and US$35 billion in incomes to fishing households annually.
  • If post-fishing activities are factored in, along with an assumption that one fisher has three dependents, then about 520 million people or eight per cent of the global population are supported by fisheries.

Mismanagement, lack of enforcement and subsidies totalling over US$27 billion annually have left close to 30 per cent of fish stocks classed as 'collapsed'-in other words yielding less than 10 per cent of their former potential.

  • Only around 25 per cent of commercial stocks-mostly of low-priced species-are considered to be in a healthy or reasonably healthy state.
  • On current trends, some researchers estimate that virtually all commercial fisheries will have collapsed by 2050 unless urgent action is taken to bring far more intelligent management to fisheries north and south.

The report estimates that of the US$27 billion-worth of subsidies, only around US$8 billion can be classed as 'good' with the rest classed as 'bad' and 'ugly' as they contribute to over-exploitation of stocks.

Funding is also required to reform and re-focus fisheries management, including through policies such as tradable quotas and the establishment of Marine Protected Areas, in order to allow depleted stocks to recover and grow.

Such measures, backed up by bold and forward-looking investments, would not only generate important economic and environmental returns. They would also assist in fighting poverty by securing a primary source of protein for close to one billion people.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said today: 'Fisheries across the world are being plundered, or exploited at unsustainable rates. It is a failure of management of what will prove to be monumental proportions unless addressed.'

'The lives and livelihoods of over half a billion people, linked with the health of this industry, will depend on the tough but also transformational choices Governments make now and over the years to come,' he added.

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