Gillnet fishing is more valuable to society than trawling, report finds
October 08 2011 Lewis Smith
Cod caught in the North Sea by gillnets is of far greater worth to society per tonne than those netted by trawlers, new research suggests.
Analysis that takes into consideration not just the monetary worth of the catches but the associated benefits and disadvantages such as employment reveals gillnet fishing to have a much greater value.
The study by the New Economics Foundation (nef) looked at a range of social and economic criteria when measuring the allocation of quota and subsidies for gillnet fishing against trawling.
Gillnets are usually nets that hand vertically at specific depths in the water and are highly selective in terms of the species and maturity of the fish they trap. Without suitable modifications, however, they can snare large quantities od seabirds, marine mammals and turtles as bycatch.
Trawlers drag cone-shaped nets that are highly effective at catching target fish but are also responsible for catching many unwanted fish, which are often discarded. They are one of the least selective types of fishing gear and if dragged along the bottom, as they are often designed to do, they can destroy large swathes of sea bed.
Nef calculated that for every tonne of cod caught the gillnet fishermen generated £865 of value whereas small trawlers lost £116 and the largest lost up to £2,000. The value of the catches was measured by taking into account costs and benefits of net revenues, employment, subsidies, discards, and GHG emissions. Trawlers catch about 6,000 tonnes of cod in the North Sea annually, about 40 times as much as the 160 tonnes taken by gillnets.
The nef argued that the analysis showed that much of the cod quota should be redistributed away from trawlers to give gillnets a greater share, though not a 100 per cent share because other factors such as efficiency and effectiveness in deep water come into play. Similarly, the lessons of the analysis could be applied to fisheries across Europe, where 72 per cent are over exploited.
“The results illustrate that some types of fishing harm society while others benefit it. Fisheries management must take this into account if it wants to ensure that the public benefits from the exploitation of a resource it owns," said Rupert Crilly, the lead author of the report, Value slipping through the net.
His colleague Aniol Esteban said: “Current allocation of fish quota and funds within the UK and across EU states clearly fails ‘the public interest first’ test. The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy gives the UK an opportunity to ensure access to fish is granted to those that deliver positive returns to society."
The report claimed: “The implementation of these criteria EU-wide would help create more sustainable EU fisheries to the benefit of both the marine environment and the communities that depend on it.”
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