Financing the Transition to Sustainable Fisheries
From a short new article in Marine Policy:
To accomplish ecosystem level conservation needs, the positive trend towards sourcing only sustainable seafood must be complimented by a more holistic, or ecosystem-based, suite of measures. These include reducing ﬁshing effort to align with resource availability, fair and equitable rights based management, and ecosystem protection (e.g., reserves, bycatch reduction) in the context of spatial area management. In addition, to realize the beneﬁts of market-based approaches, there must also be rigorous ﬁsheries improvement plans that help ﬁsheries meet the standards of eco-label certiﬁcation.
Not surprisingly, there still remains the problem raised by two critical and long-standing questions: who bears the burden of costs and how will the transition to a fully sustainable ﬁshing industry be ﬁnanced? It is often believed that it may be impossible to bridge the gulf between depleted and recovered ﬁsheries without incurring signiﬁcant social and economic hardships. This alone acts as a powerful disincentive for change and can even create active resistance against ﬁsheries reform.
And so the authors recommend a sort of IMF for bankrupt fisheries called ‘FIRME’.
Following Rands et al., the question of how to create the necessary enabling conditions required of a ‘‘ﬁnancial institution for the recovery of marine ecosystems’’ (dubbed ‘‘The FIRME’’) was explored. In considering this, an essential function of the FIRME would be to incentivize the implementation of long-term sustainability measures; for example, by guaranteeing ﬁnancial security for participating ﬁshing and associated enterprises through the recovery period (restricted ﬁshing phase), or during periods of reduced access to resources when new measures are adopted. Long-term goals for a given region would be set in accordance with science and management measures for associated long-term sustainability targets would be implemented as a condition of investment capital. The capital would be in the form of loans, granted by the FIRME on acceptance of a business plan and ‘secured’ against either the projected future value of recovered ﬁsh stocks, or against ﬁshery access ‘rights’ assigned to the involved ﬁshers. Repayment of the loan plus interest would only occur when a predetermined level of proﬁtability is reached following the resumption of ﬁshing as advised by science. Proﬁts accrued after loan maturity would be re-invested back into the FIRME, allowing it to support future conservation efforts and provide a ﬁnancial buffer to support industry through any future recovery periods.
They suggest a number of possible fund sources, leading with a suggestion to finance a fishery transition with money originally going to that fisheries subsidies (e.g. subsidized fuel, subsidized insurance, boat and dock construction, monitoring costs, etc). Makes sense that governments could save quite a bit of money on subsidies by reducing them or ending them entirely. But I think it would be a monumental feat to have a government set aside future subsidy money for fishery reform. It would be political firestorm and quite tricky with the books as there are typically a great many funding streams. Maybe once a country has gotten its reforms rolling it could invest money already saved?
Rangeley, R., & Davies, R. (2012). Raising the “Sunken Billions”: Financing the transition to sustainable fisheries Marine Policy, 36 (5), 1044-1046 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2012.02.020