Global overfishing accelerated by economic development

16.09.2015 07:54
Kategorie: News

Study calculates development of fish stocks

Young codfish © Catriona Clemmesen-Bockelmann, GEOMAR
Young codfish
© Catriona Clemmesen-Bockelmann, GEOMAR

In the long term, the wild fish population cannot be sustained by increasing aquaculture efforts, as other factors like rising demand for fish and improved fishing techniques would still restrict their population.

This conclusion was reached by researchers from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and University of Helsinki.

In a recent study, economists, fishery and evolutionary biologists from the two universities calculated how trends in fishing and aquaculture would develop by 2048 and beyond for fish stocks like sea bass, salmon, cod and tuna.

These four species were chosen as they were the most essential fish species for North American and European markets: Salmon and seabass are derived from fish farming, while the cod and tuna are caught in the wild.

Besides biological factors, technological progress in fishing, the rising global demand for fish and the growing supply of fish from aquaculture were also considered.

Lead author Professor Dr. Martin Quaas, at the University of Kiel said that they wanted to get a realistic forecast of how the wild fish stocks would develop if the biological and economic factors were considered. Over the course of the research, the team concluded that economic development had a much stronger impact than previously expected.

fish farm on Faroe Islands, © Jan Steffen, GEOMAR
A large fish farm on Faroe Islands, © Jan Steffen, GEOMAR

Although increasing aquaculture production can alleviate this impact, its effects would be overshadowed by greater demand and technological advances in fishing methods. If current trends persist, aquaculture production would need to increase by 15 to 24 per cent annually to sustain stock levels.

Co-author Thorsten Reusch from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel added in German, "Even if we start with very optimistic figures and increasing amounts of vegetable protein, the pressure to feed the population using fish stocks would be enormous and lead to their collapse."

However, a sustainable use of wild fish stocks could be achieved if there is a substantial improvement in the effectiveness of fisheries management. According to the researchers, an institutional change would be the only solution, as it would significantly bring about this effectiveness.

The recent reform of the Common Fisheries Policy of the European Union is a step in the right direction. One of the reform’s directives was the introduction of multi-annual management plans for other stocks.

The researchers also proposed that urgent action was needed in the area of deep-sea fishing, by improving the international coordination involved when defining and enforcing quotas.

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