Manage fish stocks in the public interest

school fishAn article in The Economist has stressed that the marine commercial fisheries sector should be managed in a way that guarantees high social value with a low environmental impact.

This is something Marine Scotland and their Inshore Fisheries Groups, especially those ‘managing’ the Clyde should embrace given the destructive impact of the nephrops fishery; perhaps then we’ll begin to see a more diverse inshore marine environment and Scottish waters could once again become a prime destination for recreational activities.

From the article the key points are:

  • There is now widespread acknowledgement that overfishing in Europe has created weakened fish stocks and undersized fish.
  • This has had a significant impact on the supply chain as nearly half our fish consumption is now imported.
  • The fisheries sector should be managed in a way that guarantees high social value with a low environmental impact.
  • It is not just the production of fish that is of interest, the management of fisheries should also focus on environmental.
  • Fisheries policy has the unfortunate habit of accepting the industry as it has operated rather than how it could operate eg: The allocation of quota based on historic share.

Historic share is an important consideration, no doubt, as there should be a degree of stability for the fishing industry to plan its future operations. But there are many additional considerations that could serve as management objectives.

We might think about minimising environmental harm; be that through direct damages to the marine ecosystem or the emission of greenhouse gases. We might think about the benefits of local economies and the contribution to coastal communities of smaller, inshore vessels. Or we might think about the potential to create jobs, raise wages or create profit.

Recent blogs on Economist Insights have discussed managing the blue economy with big data and unlocking blue growth with new financial tools like eco taxes or a global ocean trust fund. These are very worthy initiatives but they should be approached as part of a larger vision. The creation of high social value with low environmental impact can serve as a framework from which to build new programmes and rebuild our fisheries sector.

The New Economics Foundation has developed a bio-economic model to help illustrate the potential benefits of rebuilding fish stocks and reallocating fishing quota.

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