Restoring fish stocks would bring financial bonanza, study shows
February 10 2012 Lewis Smith
Cod would be among the species to benefit
Restoring the UK’s and Europe’s depleted fish stocks would create more than 100,000 jobs and bring in £2.7 billion annually in revenue, a study suggests.
Boosting fish populations to historic levels instead of allowing overfishing to continue would more than double the value and size of the catches made by UK fishermen, the report finds.
The benefits would be so great that the fishing industry in the UK would need to employ 46 per cent more people to cope with the extra 467,000 tonnes of fish caught each year, and would more than double its annual income from £370 million to £771 million.
Across Europe, research by the New Economic Foundation (nef) suggests, income would rise by £2.7 billion each year, 3.5 million tonnes extra fish would be caught and an estimated 100,790 new fulltime jobs would be created.
Rupert Crilly, one of the authors of the report, said of the failure to halt overfishing and restore fish stocks: “It’s a waste of resources, especially at a time like this when we have a mass economic crisis.
“The fishing industry in the UK is worth £370 million a year. If the government was to get to grips with overfishing they could get that up to £771 million. That means we are losing £400 million every year.”
He added: “Overfishing is bad for the economy. With the stroke of a pen, European fisheries ministers are wiping out millions of pounds and thousands of jobs each year by allowing overfishing to continue.”
Nef reached its conclusions after analysing historic landing figures for 43 of Europe’s 150 fisheries and scientific calculations of the quantity of each fish species, the maximum sustainable yield, that could be caught without damaging the size of the population in future years. In Europe 72 per cent of fisheries are today considered to be overfished, depleted or in the process of recovering.
Among the fish that have been overfished are cod in the North Sea but if stocks were allowed to recover catches would increase in size more than five-fold – and haddock six-fold.
Last year an estimated 32,000 tonnes of North Sea cod were landed with a further 18,000 tonnes discarded. The quantity of fish catches lost to the economy because of overfishing was calculated to be enough to supply 23 million Britons each year.
Mr Crilly, Environmental Economics researcher at nef/OCEAN2012, conceded that it would be likely to take years before fish stocks return to healthy historic levels even if fishing bans were introduced, but was critical of Europe’s failure over many years to halt overfishing.
He recognised the fishing industry would have to suffer if fishing was banned for long enough to enable stocks to recover but added: “The trouble is, how long does it take and is it within a government’s term [of office]? If we could look beyond the short term costs we can look to a much healthier fishing industry, fish stocks and economy. There are big wins.”
Europewide it was estimated in the report, Jobs Lost at Sea, that fishermen and the economy are missing out on 970,000 tonnes of cod a year, 378,000 tonnes of haddock, 854,000 tonnes of herring, and 843,000 tonnes of whiting. The extra catches are valued at three times the level of subsidies offered to the European fishing industry.
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