There are reasons for cautious, but nevertheless real, optimism about our potential for rehabilitating many degraded marine ecosystems and replenishing certain fish stocks with the expansion of sustainable fisheries practices under Catch Share programs that have been conducted within the last three and a half decades in 35 countries, including countries such as Iceland that depend heavily upon fisheries for important export revenue and island nations that depend on fisheries for the health and well-being of their populations.
Remarkable world-wide results from Catch Share fisheries management programs conducted in an extremely wide range of marine biological, topographical and weather conditions in both hemispheres among single and multi-species fisheries working in tropical, temperate and sub-Arctic zones have brightened the future outlook of many people who have long been deeply concerned about overfishing and the ecological impacts of certain fishing gear such as bottom trawlers that have been known to be destructive since at least 1376 when Edward III of Windsor (1312-1377), King of England, aptly noted:
“Where in creeks and havens of the sea there used to be plenteous fishing, to the profit of the Kingdom, certain fishermen for several years past have subtily contrived an instrument called ‘wondyrechaun’ … the great and long iron of the wondyrechaun runs so heavily and hardly over the ground when fishing that it destroys the flowers of the land below water there, and also the spat of oysters, mussels and other fish upon which the great fish are accustomed to be fed and nourished. By which instrument in many places, the fishermen take such quantity of small fish that they do not know what to do with them; and that they feed and fat their pigs with them, to the great damage of the common of the realm and the destruction of the fisheries, and they prey for a remedy.”
This optimism is tempered, however, by the inadequate responses of many world-wide government authorities, including many European national governments and the European Commission, to redress the continuing marine species and habitat damage inflicted by overfishing and environmentally harmful fishing gear.
A socio-economic study entitled Sustainable Fisheries Development was prepared pro bono for a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) on the European Parliament Fisheries Committee who requested a recommendation for a fisheries management system that could be adapted to the European Union and its myriad of fishing vessel types, marine conditions, harvested species and cultural differences. Of all the potential fisheries management systems assessed, only the Catch Share program offered: (i) a viable mechanism for a European-wide framework which national governments and regional authorities could tailor to their own special needs, especially given European Fisheries Commissioner Damanaki’s aim to delegate more fisheries management responsibility to Member States, (ii) enhanced enforcement of fisheries regulations to curb illegal fishing, (iii) improved fisheries industry profitability, employment stability and worker safety, (iv) reliable scientific assessments of fish stocks and habitats and (v) the means for enhancing fish stocks and allowing marine habitat recovery for the long term benefit of fisheries and marine ecosystems.
The Catch Share program has been endorsed by global fisheries experts including the President of the Nordic Council, the President of the Spanish Fishermen’s Association, WWF International and participating fishers, including Alaskan fisherman Rob Wurm who readily admitted that “We fought against the [Catch Share] program right up until the time it passed, but, to my surprise, it really has worked well. It has created a lot of stability, stopped the race for fish and changed the fishing environment in ways that have made it safer and allowed us to avoid bycatch.”
Let us hope that the European Commission in its current Common Fisheries Policy reform is focusing on the long term needs of the fisheries industry, marine ecosystems that contribute heavily to the annual US$26 trillion worth of valuable goods and services provided for free by nature and the global human population that relies on an adequate supply of fish, rather than the short term but politically expedient needs of the decision-makers themselves.
To download a PDF file of the study, please click thefollowing link:
- Download Sustainable Fisheries Development.
- Download President Barroso's Response to our CFP Proposals