Worldwatch Paper #142: Rocking the Boat: Conserving Fisheries and Protecting Jobs

June 1998
Anne Platt McGinn
ISBN: 1-878071-44-0
92 pages

Fisheries and the economic and social benefits they offer society are under siege around the globe. Most of the world's marine fish stocks and primary fishing grounds are in decline. Nearly one third of all fish are thrown back to sea dead or dying each y ear because of wasteful fishing practices. The food security of more than 1 billion people who rely on fish for much of their animal protein is also at risk because one of every three fish captured goes to feed animals and other uses.

The roots of the crisis run deep. They include the open access nature of fishing-which draws people into the industry well after profits and catches begin falling; widespread technological change and fleet growth; and national development policies that pr omote expansion at the expense of the resource. The industry barely stays afloat, even as billions of dollars in subsidies are poured into it.

Despite these worrisome trends, author Anne Platt McGinn identifies several steps to reverse the precipitous declines in fish stocks while protecting food supplies and jobs. Implemented sustainably, aquaculture can continue to meet growing demand. Community-based management, marine protected areas, and more selective fishing gear can rehabilitate fish populations and habitats. Efforts to res tore market discipline by limiting access and by charging what fish actually cost, combined with consumer education and eco-labeling programs, can also contribute to rescuing today's collapsing fisheries.