Fisheries losing $50 billion a year: World Bank

Thomson Financial News Super Focus, October 9, 2008 Thursday 6:08 AM GMT - As more and more fishermen chase fewer and fewer fish, $50 billion is lost each year in potential economic benefits to the fishing industry, a report released Wednesday said.

Released by the World Bank and the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization, the report blamed poor management, inefficiencies and overfishing for more than $2 trillion of avoidable economic losses over the last three decades.

In a time of worldwide financial turmoil, the amount may seem like 'small change,' said Kieran Kelleher, the World Bank's fisheries team leader, but fisheries are in a global crisis and adding to lost opportunities for economic growth.

Better management and a move to more sustainable fishing practices could turn much of the billions of dollars lost each year into economic benefits for fishers and coastal communities, the report said.

'Fisheries are a tremendous source of income, employment and wealth creation if managed properly,' said Daniel Gustafson, director of the liaison office for North America at the FAO.

Significant financial losses in marine fishing operations are the result of depleted fish stocks and fleet overcapacity.

Shrinking fish populations, a result of pollution and habitat loss, have kept annual global marine catches at around 85 million tons for the past decade despite advanced fishing technologies and larger fishing fleets.

Fewer fish cause productivity -- or the catch per fisher or per vessel -- to decline. So as fishing fleets grow in size, they add only to redundant investments and harvesting efforts.

The report said only half of the current global fishing effort would be needed to maintain current catch levels if fish stocks were rebuilt.

'Sustainable fisheries require political will to replace incentives for overfishing with incentives for responsible stewardship,' Kelleher said, noting that any solution will have to be at the country level.

Michael Arbuckle, the World Bank's senior fisheries specialist, told Reuters reform is a growing global trend among fisheries.

'The problem is trying to find examples that are applicable in the particular countries we are trying to help,' he said, explaining that aspects that work in the developed world do not always translate to poorer countries.

He noted fishing rights-based systems that have worked well in developed countries, and community management structures that are thriving in the developing world.

'We're trying to give a bit of security and access to the fishers,' Arbuckle said. 'Then you can create a framework where there's an opportunity for people to invest and capture some of the value of the fisheries and reinvest it locally or nationally.'

Efforts to help fish stocks flourish once again to increase yields and in turn lower costs to fishermen; programs that cutback on fleet size and number to boost productivity and profitability would also help fisheries; and policies that reduce fuel subsidies in the fishing sector were also suggested as strategies for reform.

(Editing by Christian Wiessner) Keywords: FISHERIES REFORM

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