Thursday, August 07, 2008

The future of marine fisheries

Among the many terrific talks at the International Coral Reef Symposium meeting last month was a plenary by the Daniel Pauly, head of the Sea Around Us Project of the UBC Fisheries Centre on the state of the world’s coral reef fisheries.

Aside from being one of the world’s top fisheries biologists, Pauley is among the best science communicators out there. He originated the term “shifting baselines”, a illustration of the way (fisheries) scientists often underestimate the "baseline" size of wild populations, and now also the name of a nice blog run by Jennifer Jacquet, one of Pauley’s students here in the land of salmon, and others.

The final message of his talk is worth repeating, and will be surprising to many: Small scale fisheries might be the only realistic future for marine fisheries.

Why? The work to reconstruct trends in fisheries catch done by the Sea Around Us Project suggests that the future for large-scale industrial fishing is bleak. Industrial catch is decreasing for two reasons. First, the obvious one. Fisheries are being depleted. Second, higher oil prices makes running large boats too expensive. Combine the two, and it is costing more and more money to catch fewer, and fewer, and smaller, and less desirable species of fish.

The despair brings hope for a return to more sustainable fishing practices. Small scale, more local fisheries - the type of fishing done in the tropical developing nations, where doing coral reef field work often means helping some local fishermen troll for a tuna or pile fresh squid into an icebox - are not only more environmentally efficient, they are becoming more economically efficient. In the future, these fisheries may be able to provide more jobs, and more sustainable jobs, than the current large-scale industrial fisheries.

1 comment:

Ariyani NF said...

Estimation of fish population is very hard to do. They are too many factors must be defined and assumptions to be filled before applying a model. In some models, the assumption/s can't be filled, but the model have been used until now, e.g. Schaefer model. Will you believe the output of this model?