Fish stocks deliver huge benefits to society. They are a source of jobs, a source of profits, and a source of affordable food.
But European fish stocks are delivering much less than they could if they were managed at sustainable levels. For the good of society, restoring fish stocks from current levels to their maximum sustainable yield should be at the heart of European fisheries management. The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is an ideal opportunity to put an end to this waste.
Overfishing is said to occur when fish are captured at a faster rate than they reproduce. This phenomenon has plagued European waters for decades, but has only recently come under public scrutiny. The enormously wasteful practice of discarding fish, sometimes throwing away five times more fish than are landed at port, has sparked public outrage.
Yet this is but one part of a worrying trend in the marine world. Some fish stocks have been fished to the brink of collapse. Some catches are but a shadow of their former selves. The decline in catches has been mirrored by corresponding falls in fishing revenues and the numbers of jobs they support. But for many, struggling in the midst of a global economic crisis, this catastrophe is both out of sight and out of mind.
Yet, it is precisely in times such as these that natural resources should be better managed to produce more revenue and jobs. In this paper, we study 43 fish stocks in European and neighbouring waters and look at how healthy fisheries could sustainably provide more catches and what this means in terms of additional revenue and jobs. We find that over €3 billion is lost every year due to overfishing these stocks. This could support 100,000 jobs in the industry and inject money into a bleeding economy. Isn’t it time we rebuilt our fish stocks?
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