Oceans Without Fish in 40 Years?

Published on June 2nd, 2010 | by

Ok, “without fish” is a little bit of an overstatement, but a new report out by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and leading economists warns us that if fishing policies don’t change, all commercial fisheries could collapse in the next 40 years, which is pretty dramatic. UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner has made it clear that we really are heading towards unprecedented disaster if policies aren’t changed:

“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.”

Luckily, governments can make a huge difference in this arena and can generate economic growth in the meantime if they changes course now, as UNEP shows in a preview of its Green Economy report (which will be published later in the year) that it unveiled on May 17, 2010.

Image Credit: visualpanic Unsustainable fishing is causing a massive decline in the number of fish in the ocean. If we don't turn things around fast, it may not be so easy to find fish in the ocean in the near future.
Unsustainable fishing is causing a massive decline in the number of fish in the ocean. If we don't turn things around fast, it may not be so easy to find fish in the ocean.

To get into the matter, consider this:

  • The total value of fish caught per year is approximately $85 billion.
  • An additional $27 billion is dished over as government subsidies.
  • $8 billion of those subsidies are classified as “good” and the rest are classified as “bad” or “ugly” by the Green Economy report because they contribute to over-exploitation of stocks.

The result of these massive “bad” or “ugly” government subsidies, mismanagement and lack of enforcement is that approximately 30% of fish stocks are now classified as “collapsed” (meaning that they are yielding less than 10% of their former potential).

Furthermore, only 25% of commercial stocks are considered to be in a healthy or reasonably healthy state. And maintaining current trends, all commercial fisheries could collapse by 2050 “unless urgent action is taken to bring far more intelligent management to fisheries north and south.”

What’s the Cost (or Benefit) of Governments Saving Fisheries (and All Those Who Rely on Them)?

In order to bring fishing to a sustainable level, the report predicts that “an investment of between US$220 to US$320 billion world-wide is required,” equal to approximately $8 billion a year. However, this investment would come with significant benefits as well. It would:

  • Raise total income of fishing households, including those engaged in artisanal fishing, from US$35 billion to around US$44 billion a year;
  • Increase annual profits for fishing enterprises from US$8 billion to US$11 billion annually;
  • Increase the marine fisheries catch from about 80 million tonnes to 112 million tonnes a year worth US$119 billion annually versus the current US$85 billion.

So, overall, the economic benefit of bringing fishing to a sustainable level would be much greater than the cost.

“Discounting this flow of benefit over time at three per cent and five per cent real discount rates, gives a present value of benefit from greening the fishing sector of US$1.05 trillion and US$1.76 trillion, which is three to five times the high-end estimate of US$320 billion as the cost of greening global fisheries,” says the preview report.

The best option seems clear. Hopefully, the necessary action to implement that option will follow.


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3 comments

  • Aloha

    All I know, is if all of us would make sure what goes into our storm drains, is only rain water, we just might be adding a tad more time to holding off the contamination of our drinking water and the sea and fresh water food, stencil the storm drains, fine the people that dump waste into them, toxic cigarette butts, oil, paint, each and everyone of us need to WAKE-UP and start taking care, we are all in this neighborhood together.
    “THE LIFE OF THE PEOPLE IS IN THE LAND”

  • From what I see daily, most people don’t give a rats ass about what happens down the road, they just think of their personal selfish pleasures “NOW” leaving a mess for the voiceless, children, wildlife and all waterways, they don’t even look for post such as these, blind eyes, deaf ears, to busy on phones, to see what is beneath their feet.
    The cry of mother nature is very loud and the tears of the voiceless are everywhere, most people are a waste of skin taking up space and leaving behind or walking past, dangers to our children, wildlife and waterways, lazy inconsiderate humans, I can see why our end is ever so close, we get what we give, whats nothing from nothing! One random act of kindness at a time, has it’s rewards, NOW is the only time there is Carpe-Diem, “JUST DO IT” Clean a beach, park, lake, river, stream, creek, storm drain, your neighborhood, be part of the solution, not the pollution, earn your keep on this priceless earth, give back, count your blessings and give back.
    Mahalo Nui Loa, sorry I needed to vent

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