October 07, 2012
Restraint On Global Fishing Could Boost Future Yields

Better policies could help boost fishery productivity.

A study published in Science magazine contains new population assessments for thousands of fisheries around the globe, providing insight on the health of data-poor fisheries that account for more than 80 percent of the world's catch. The research confirms suspicions that these fisheries are in decline, but it also highlights hope for the future: most of these fisheries have not yet collapsed. If we act quickly to prevent overfishing and allow depleted stocks to recover to sustainable levels, they could provide more seafood over the long-term. This could increase the amount of fish brought to shore by 8-40 percent on average - and more than double it in some areas - compared to yields predicted if we continue current fishing trends.

But on a global scale the odds of better policies seem slim to me. The political map of Africa especially seems to work against good policies. Too many different countries have borders on the ocean. Fish that don't get fished for off of one country will get fished for in the next country. That contrasts with the United States, Canada, and Russia which have very long ocean borders. Coordination of restraints on fishing are far easier to achieve if the country that refrains from overfishing in its own waters will reap most of benefits.

Even if the yields could be increased the potential increase is a fixed max which is not huge. Most people aren't going to be able eat wild fish. The future of fish production growth has got to be from farmed fish. The wilds can't produce enough to feed the world. The human population has become too large for that.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 October 07 09:36 PM  Environment Fisheries

PacRim Jim said at October 8, 2012 11:32 AM:

The question is, How many people must starve to restore the fisheries?
The global inflation now underway is pricing millions out of the imported food market, so they must turn to whatever food is available locally.
Their only choices seem to be to destroy the forests for firewood, and to kill the land and sea animals to feed their hungry children.
A short-term solution, to be sure, but what would you do in their stead?

Mike M said at October 8, 2012 2:02 PM:

There's other choices. We could resort to cannibalism and attack the problem from both directions, i.e. a new food source and less people to feed.

The "global" solutions to the "food crisis" and "global warming" won't work. Because "everyone" realizes that certain nations will not "cooperate" with the plan, no rational people are going to willingly be the schmucks that make sacrifices in vain while the rogue nations continue their behavior unfettered. It's the tragedy of the commons on steroids. The solution won't come from cutting back for the sake of "saving the planet" or helping future generations, but from Randall's favorite topic - innovation. Many of those who jumped (late) onto the computer science bandwagon in their search for a financially prosperous career will find themselves in a crowded room while those early enough to get into the food production game will likely do well - if they don't wait until everyone else recognizes this.

Nick G said at October 10, 2012 11:28 AM:

PacRim Jim,

Local people feeding their families aren't the problem. The problem is enormous fleets of commercial trawlers, preparing the fish for the highest international bidder- sometimes for unproductive uses like farm-fish food, or destructive uses, like shark fin soup.

Alvin said at October 12, 2012 4:57 AM:

The periodic instances of mad cow disease and e-coli in beef has reduced the North American consumption. A similar planned/unplanned such outbreak in fish could help reduce the fish stocks. In the long term, a one-child policy for India and Africa is needed.

Phillep Harding said at October 13, 2012 3:47 PM:

Nick calls it. Fish farms use a lot of indiscriminately caught sea life. Few edible salt water fish eat algae, and there's a limit to how many fresh water algae eaters can be raised/marketed, so people go out and catch "whatever" from the ocean to feed fish, without regard for "what" or "how much".

I'm from a fishing town. The US, Canada, and a few other nations try to discourage illegal fishing. Canada has an extra problem with "aboriginal fishing rights" in BC, as some of the natives have been running huge commercial fishing operations under the guise of "subsistence fishing". Haven't heard anything lately, but the PC crowd may have stifled news on the subject again. If you hear of "endangered salmon" in western Canada, well, that's what is usually going on; Canada has lost control of the Native fishermen again.

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