FAO, World Bank call for reforms in fisheries sector

October 10th, 2008 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Abu Dhabi, Oct 10 (IANS) The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Bank have called for adoption of remedial policies to avert the continuing losses in marine fisheries across the world. In a joint press statement, made available to the state-run Emirates News Agency (WAM) here, the FAO and World Bank said global economic losses in marine fisheries resulting from poor management inefficiencies and over-fishing add up to a staggering $50 billion per year.

Citing the findings in a new World Bank-FAO report titled “The Sunken Billions: The Economic Justification for Fisheries Reform”, the statement said that “taken over the last three decades, these losses total over $2 trillion, a figure roughly equivalent to the GDP of Italy”.

The joint study by the two agencies, however, also argues that well-managed marine fisheries could turn most of these losses into sustainable economic benefits for millions of fishermen and coastal communities.

“Sustainable fisheries require political will to replace incentives for over-fishing with incentives for responsible stewardship,” said Kieran Kelleher, fisheries team leader for the World Bank.

“It is not just about boats and fish. This report provides decision makers with the economic arguments for the reforms needed,” he added.

Strengthened fishing rights can provide fishers and fishing communities with incentives to fish in an economically efficient and socially responsible manner.

Phasing out subsidies that enhance redundant fishing capacity and harvesting effort will improve efficiency. Greater transparency in allocation of fish resources and greater public accountability for fisheries management and health of fish stocks will help ecolabelling initiatives to certify sustainable fisheries, the report said.

It said the bulk of losses occur in two main ways.

First, depleted fish stocks mean that there are fewer fish to catch and, therefore, the cost of finding and catching them is greater than it might be.

Secondly, fleet overcapacity means that the economic benefits of fishing are dissipated due to redundant investment and operating costs.

According to the report, long before the fuel price increases of 2008, the economic health of the world’s marine fisheries was in decline. The build-up of fishing fleets, deployment of increasingly powerful fishing technologies and increasing pollution and habitat loss have depleted fish stocks worldwide.

Global marine catches have been stagnant for over a decade, hovering at around 85 million tonnes per year. Fisheries productivity - measured in terms of catch per fisher or per fishing vessel - has declined, even though fishing technology has advanced and fishing effort increased.

If world fish stocks were rebuilt, the current marine fisheries catch could be achieved with approximately half of the current global fishing effort, the report says.

It also shed light on the under-performance and hidden costs in marine fishing.

According to the FAO, over 75 percent of the world’s fish stocks are either fully exploited or overexploited. But the focus on the state of stocks has tended to obscure the even more critical economic health of the fisheries.

When fish stocks are fully exploited, the associated fisheries are almost invariably performing below their economic optimum. In some cases, fisheries may be biologically sustainable but still operate at an economic loss.

At the global level, each tonne of fish caught uses almost half a tonne of fuel - much of it wasted in redundant harvesting effort, the report pointed out.

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