UN: Dock 13 Million Fishing Boats to Save Global Stocks

Stark predictions lie ahead for the fishing industry if action is not taken immediately to preserve stock, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).  Warning that “virtually all commercial fisheries will have collapsed by 2050 unless urgent action is taken”, scientists estimated 13 million boats need to stop fishing immediately to save global fish populations.  Such drastic measures would shrink the world fleet to seven million vessels.

Subsidized trawlers largely to blame for overfishing
Subsidized trawlers largely to blame for overfishing / Photo by skagmans

The UN identifies trawlers as bearing the largest responsibility for overfishing, and many of these “egregious practices” are actually subsidized by developing countries.  According to UNEP’s  preview report “Turning the Tide on Falling Fish Stocks – UNEP-Led Green Economy Charts Sustainable Investment Path“:

The investment, some of which can be covered by phasing down or phasing out some of the US$27 billion-worth of fishing subsides currently in place, is needed to dramatically reduce the excess capacity of the world’s fishing fleets while supporting workers in alternative livelihoods…

he report estimates that of the US$27 billion-worth of subsidies, only around US$8 billion can be classed as ‘good’ with the rest classed as ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ as they contribute to over-exploitation of stocks.

The Guardian reports:

At stake is not just the biodiversity of the oceans, but a substantial chunk of the global economy and the livelihoods that depend on it. The UN estimates there are about 35 million people directly employed in fishing, which translates to about 120 million including their households and 500 million – or about 8% of global population – taking into account indirect businesses such as packaging, freezing and transport…

The paradox is that there is so much overfishing going on that the industry has become increasingly inefficient. The UN believes that by switching from large trawler fleets to more sustainable local or “artisanal” fishing, fish stocks will recover and the total size of catch will grow.

Although restricting fishing will have an immediate impact on the global economy, the long term benefit will far outweigh the effects by creating a sustainable industry and food source.  It is estimated 20 million people would need to find jobs outside of the fishing industry in order to save global stocks.

Written by Jennifer Lance

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