More Bad News - Overfishing

overfishing.pngNature reported last week about more bad news. Daniel Pauly along with SB's very own (Jennifer) and others reported on their new research that documents the underreported fishing impacts of artesianal fisheries around the world. The results are not pretty: the amount of overfishing is very often underreported, sometimes as much as three or four times. One aspect that is contributing to the problem is the fisheries agreements that high-income nations often have with low-income nations. Jennifer describes it as a Robin Hood in reverse, "Instead of stealing from the rich to give to the poor, it's stealing from the poor to give to the rich."

The authors presented their findings at 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida - which you already heard a bit about from Jennifer. The impacts are clear - and it's becoming clear that those impacts are more often than not underestimated. Now we need some solutions.

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Was just in Kenya in May, including some time on the coast south of Mombasa. Could see this myself, and had complaints from a number of locals that the near-coast fishing that they did with hand-lines was disappearing. It puts more and more pressure on the land resources, as the sea resources disappear. Plus, growing poverty hardly helps political stability. But Kenya have no money (or say they have no money) to even patrol to see how many foreign fishing boats are even physically in their waters, much less regulate how much they take; it's a free-for-all, essentially.

However, they will not ban foreign fishing from their waters, (a) because they also have no way to prevent them from being there, and (b) they want what money they can get, and don't see that they have a strong bargaining position to demand more, since the European countries will just say they have negotiated fishing rights with the neighbouring countries and will continue to take from those waters. How can this be addressed?

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 17 Jul 2008 #permalink

I get the impression that most of the unreported catch is attributable to artisanal, subsistence and recreational fisheries. This really begs for greater involvement by locals (fishermen, consumers & other stakeholders) in developing management policy. These are the folks most directly involved and those with the most to offer in terms of improving catch statistics.

I'd like to see a discussion of what folks think fisheries should look like in 20 years. Clearly there's much to be desired regarding the current state of affairs. There are increasing calls for EBFM, but this is usually vaguely defined at best and often lacking detailed objectives. It'd be interesting to approach this both from the top down and the bottom up: What should the upper limit be on the protein we take from the world's oceans? How would we integrate science, management and fisheries into a policy that meets that objective? From the bottom up, I think it'd be instructive to develop policy at the community level, working with fishermen, scientists, and consumers with a similar objective: given an initial cap on the biomass to be removed locally, how would you limit capitalization (or handle the 'excess' fishermen)?

Obviously there are a lot of details that need addressing here (eg how would you distribute take across tropic levels?), but it'd be an interesting exercise. One might predict that the top down approach would lead to large, highly efficient fishing vessels (seiners, trawlers--greatest capture efficiency?), and the bottom up would favor small boats with more selective gear (greater productivity for a given impact?).

By Pete Nelson (not verified) on 18 Jul 2008 #permalink

I'm not sure about the tropic levels and all that (I'm not a scientist), but I'd like to put in a plug for Oceans 21, a bill now langushing in Congress, as it applies to our own waters. Apparently, the NOAA would be in charge of regulating fishing, creating protected areas and generally using science to determine ocean policy rather than the almighty dollar. Wouldn't that be an improvement!