Global fisheries research finds promise and peril

September 14, 2010

Global fisheries, a vital source of food and revenue throughout the world, contribute between US$225-$240 billion per year to the worldwide economy, according to four new studies released today. Researchers also concluded that healthier fisheries could have prevented malnourishment in nearly 20 million people in poorer countries.

This first comprehensive, peer-reviewed estimate of the global economic contribution of fisheries was published online today in four papers as part of a special issue of the Journal of Bioeconomics.

This research, conducted by the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Centre, with support from the Pew Environment Group, quantifies the social and economic value of fish around the world and also calculates the loss of both revenue and dependable protein sources from years of overfishing.

"We know fish play an important ecological role in the marine environment, but these studies assess their 'out-of-the-water' value to people across the globe," says lead economist Associate Professor Rashid Sumaila at the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Centre. "Whether you are looking at fish as a financial resource or a source of protein, our research shows that the benefits of healthy, robust fisheries have enormous value far beyond the fishing dock."

Dr. Sumaila and his team of researchers also found that:One of the four papers focused on global fisheries subsidies, or financial incentives that countries offer to their fishing industries, which may contribute to depleted fish stocks. Large developed countries are spending twice the amount of tax-payer money on global fisheries subsidies that encourage overfishing than they are on subsidies that protect oceans.

"Many economies are paying doubly for continued overfishing of our oceans," says Sumaila. "First, tax-payer money is directly contributing to the decline of worldwide fisheries, and second, fishermen and undernourished people are hurting from a steadily declining resource. From a socioeconomic standpoint, subsidies that promote overfishing are doing far more harm than good."
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For more information, including copies of the research papers, please contact Brian Lin at brian.lin@ubc.ca or Jo Knight at jknight@pewtrusts.org.

The University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre (www.fisheries.ubc.ca) undertakes research to restore fisheries, conserve aquatic life and rebuild ecosystems. To that end, it promotes multidisciplinary study of aquatic ecosystems and broad-based collaboration with maritime communities, government, NGOs and other partners. The UBC Fisheries Centre is recognized globally for its innovative and enterprising research, with its academics winning many accolades and awards.

The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life. Visit www.pewenvironment.org.

University of British Columbia

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