'Give oceans a break' to increase fish catches

20 February 2017

Reducing fishing to give stocks time to recover could generate an additional $83bn each year for the sector, according to a report.

The World Bank report updates a 2009 study to reveal that reducing the global fishing effort to allow stocks to recover from overexploitation would increase the weight, value and price of fish landed.

This could boost the profitability of the fisheries sector from an estimated $3bn a year to $86bn and would lead to more fish being caught.

Laura Tuck, World Bank vice president for sustainable development, said: “This study confirms what we have seen in different country contexts: Giving the oceans a break pays off.

“Moving toward more sustainable fisheries management, through approaches that are tailored to local conditions, can yield significant benefits for food security, poverty reduction and long-term growth.”

The study relies on a methodology developed by Ragnar Arnason, professor in the faculty of economics at the University of Iceland, which examined the mismatch between an increasing level of effort put into fishing and stagnant or declining catches.

In 2012, for example, the fishing industry would have gained an extra $83bn under an optimal management scenario, said the report.

However, while the report urges investment in the recovery of fish stocks, it does not prescribe a particular reform path.

“Reform experiences in countries and regions as diverse as Peru, Morocco, the Pacific Islands and West Africa show it is possible to reduce overfishing through locally appropriate reforms,” said the report.

Some 90% of marine fisheries monitored by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization are fully fished or overfished, up from about 75% in 2005, while stocks are also under increasing pressure from pollution, coastal development and climate change.   

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