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10.10.2008 Business & Finance

$50bn lost in marine fishing annually

By Stephen Odoi-Larbi - Ghanaian Chronicle

Economic losses in marine fisheries, resulting from poor management, inefficiencies, and over-fishing, add up to a staggering US$50 billion per year, according to a new World Bank-FAO report released yesterday.

Taken over the last three decades these losses total over US$2 trillion, a figure roughly equivalent to the GDP of Italy.

But, 'The Sunken Billions: The Economic Justification for Fisheries Reform,' a joint study by the two agencies, also argues that well-managed marine fisheries could turn most of these losses, into sustainable economic benefits for millions of fishers, and coastal communities.

“Sustainable fisheries require political will to replace incentives for over-fishing with incentives for responsible stewardship,” said Kieran Kelleher, Fisheries Team Leader for the World Bank. “It is not just about boats and fish. This report provides decision-makers with the economic arguments for the reforms needed.

“Strengthened fishing rights, can provide fishers and fishing communities with incentives to fish in an economically efficient and socially responsible manner. Phasing out subsidies that enhance redundant fishing capacity and harvesting effort, will improve efficiency. Greater transparency in allocation of fish resources, and greater public accountability for fisheries management, and health of fish stocks, will help ecolabelling initiatives to certify sustainable fisheries.”

According to the report the bulk of losses occur in two main ways. First, depleted fish stocks mean that there are fewer fish to catch, and therefore the cost of finding and catching them is greater than it might be.

Second, fleet overcapacity means that the economic benefits of fishing are dissipated due to redundant investment and operating costs.

The report stresses that the figure of US$50 billion represented a conservative estimate – it excludes losses to recreational fisheries and marine tourism, as well as losses due to illegal fishing.