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Unemployment and Fisheries Sustainability

April 17, 2012

A tough reality is that fisheries policy will either have to create unemployment or redirect current employment to achieve sustainability.  This reality is further underlined by a new paper by FAO scientists published in Fish and Fisheries.

The authors constructed a bioeconomic model to estimate the costs and benefits of restoring overfished stocks. The results showed that the global fishing capacity needs to be cut by 36–43% from the 2008 level, resulting in the loss of employment of 12–15 million fishers.

But it isn’t all gloom.  The authors estimate that these fishers will need to be compensated between $96 and 358 billion.  And the restored stocks will increase annual fishery production by 16.5 million tonnes, annual rent by US$32 billion and improve biodiversity and functioning  of  marine  ecosystems.

The authors suggested that rights should be restructured to resolve the underlying problem that caused overcapacity in the first place.

Buyback schemes are not necessarily a first or best policy instrument to reduce fleet overcapacity (Squires 2010). They do not change the underlying property rights or the long-term incentives remain to  overinvest  in  open-access  fisheries.  Buybacks with ill-structured rights may even aggravate this problem  over  the  long  term  by  strengthening investment incentives through growing profits cre- ated by buybacks. Buybacks typically require a large investment of capital and are often widely used for high  value  fisheries.

Also, to achieve the buybacks, fisheries policy needs to be further integrated with national social and economic policies.

The  difficulty  of  restoring  depleted  stocks  is further exacerbated by the complexity of both the socio-economic  and  ecological  systems.  In  cold temperate areas, recovery of a depleted stock may take years or even decades after fishing pressure is removed. National policies for fishery production are often  outweighed  by  food  security,  employment considerations and lobbying by established companies. Therefore, effort to address the depleted stocks and the economic loss of fishing fleets needs to be greatly strengthened by integrating fisheries policy with national social and economic policies.

Yimin Ye, Kevern Cochrane, Gabriella Bianchi, Rolf Willmann, Jacek Majkowski, Merete Tandstad, & Fabio Carocci (2012). Rebuilding global fisheries: the World Summit Goal, costs and benefits Fish and Fisheries : 10.1111/j.1467-2979.2012.00460.x

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