The science of sustainable seafood, explained

New Paper says there is Potential for More Fish and More Profit

By Jack Cheney

A new paper published this week explored opportunities for increased yield and profit across 4,713 fish stocks constituting 78% of global fisheries. The central question asked was, “what is the potential of the oceans to produce more food, more jobs and more profit?”

Three scenarios were examined to answer this question: Business as usual (BAU), in which current management practices continue; yield maximization (FMSY,) in which fishing limits for each stock was set to produce long term maximum sustainable yield and; Fisheries Reform (REF), in which fishing pressure was managed to maximize long-term economic value.

The study determined, “there is significant global potential to increase profitability and some potential to increase fish catch, but the actions required to capitalize on these potential benefits vary greatly around the world.” For instance, increased yield from stocks in Europe and North America need to come from increased exploitation, since many stocks are currently underexploited in these regions. On the other hand, increased profit in Asian fisheries should come after fisheries reform that would reduce fishing pressure and increase fish abundance.

The authors conceded that there are important caveats to these findings; often fishery managers have more complex and nuanced objectives than solely increasing profit and yield. However, this analysis contradicts the mainstream and “bleak” outlook that sustainable fisheries and blue growth are opposing concepts. There are global, sustainable opportunities for increased yield and profit from capture fisheries.

Trajectories of catch under the three policies. From Hilborn & Costello 2017

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