The plan to ban fishing in more than half the world’s oceans

Fishes eye view of the Island Star. Photo by Derek Keats, Flickr.

Fishes eye view of the Island Star. Photo by Derek Keats, Flickr.

This analysis was originally posted in New Scientist, and can be found here.

By James Randerson.

IT IS one of the planet’s last true wildernesses, yet a handful of the world’s wealthiest nations are plundering its riches to satisfy the appetites of luxury consumers – all with the help of billions in public money. Continue reading

EU fishing companies reap profits in developing countries, while taxpayers foot the bill

Infographic from The Pew Charitable Trusts, who also funded the research.

Infographic from The Pew Charitable Trusts, who also funded the research.

The European Union (EU) covers 75% of the access fees that allow its vessels to fish in developing countries’ waters while the fishing companies pocket the profits, according to new research from the Sea Around Us Project.

In a study published today in the online journal PLOS ONE, the authors analyzed access agreements that allow EU-based fishing fleets to operate in Africa and the South Pacific. They found that EU governments pay 75% of the annual access fees while the fishing industry pays the remaining 25% — but that represents only about 2% of the revenue it generates from selling the catch.

“The EU’s fishing companies are benefitting from these agreements far more than the developing countries where they go to fish,” says Frédéric Le Manach, a PhD student at with the Sea Around Us Project and the study’s lead author.

You can find out more about the study here:
Press release from the University of British Columbia,
Journal article published in PLOS ONE.

Le Manach F, Chaboud C, Copeland D, Cury P, Gascuel D, Kleisner KM, Standing A, Sumaila UR, Zeller D and Pauly D (2013) European Union’s public fishing access agreements in developing countries. PLOS ONE. http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0079899

Deep-Sea Fish in Deep Trouble

A team of scientists from around the world, including several members of the Sea Around Us Project, is recommending that most of the deep sea be closed to fishing. In an extensive review paper published in the journal Marine Policy, a team of ecologists, fisheries biologists, economists, and mathematicians make the case that high seas fisheries should be shut down.

Fish from the deep sea, like the Orange roughy shown here (photo credit: Claire Nouvian), make up less than 1% of seafood in the market. But fisheries, especially trawl fisheries, cause a lot of damage to the species themselves as well as the seafloor and animals that live on it, like deep-sea coral, the authors of the paper argue. In addition, high seas trawlers receive an estimated $162 million each year in government handouts, which amounts to 25% the value of the fleet’s catch, according to Rashid Sumaila, an author on the paper and a fisheries economist at UBC.

The study comes just before the United Nations deliberates on deep-sea fisheries on the high seas. In 2006, a proposed UN resolution to ban bottom trawling in the high seas failed due to opposition led by Iceland and Russia.

Read the full press release here, the full study here, and some media coverage in The Washington Post.

Reference: Elliott A. Norse, Sandra Brooke, William W.L. Cheung, Malcolm R. Clark, Ivar Ekeland, Rainer Froese, Kristina M. Gjerde, Richard L. Haedrich, Selina S. Heppell, Telmo Morato, Lance E. Morgan, Daniel Pauly, Rashid Sumaila, Reg Watson. Sustainability of deep-sea fisheries. Marine Policy, 2012; 36 (2): 307.

Sea Around Us Speaks at the United Nations

This week the Sea Around Us is present for the weeklong UN meeting to review high seas fisheries . Rashid Sumaila’s work is being used to frame fisheries because the $27 billion his team has estimated in yearly subsidies keep unprofitable boats afloat. Former Sea Around Us M.Sc. student Sarika Cullis-Suzuki also joins in the meeting to discuss her work on the effectiveness of RFMOs. As noted in the Pew press release, her study evaluated the 18 regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), the intergovernmental bodies tasked with managing fishing on the high seas, and found they have failed to halt dramatic declines of fish stocks. The study by Cullis-Suzuki and Daniel Pauly, Failing the high seas: A global evaluation of regional fisheries management organizations, appeared in print this week at Marine Policy. Update May 28, 2010: Read coverage from Cullis-Suzuki’s presentation the UN meeting in The Guardian.