Overfishing and the EU

2008-06-23

in Economics, Law, Politics, Rants, Science, The environment

Emily Horn on her bike

Long-time readers will remember the saga of the ‘fish paper’ – my research piece on the sustainability and legality of European Union fisheries policy in West Africa, eventually published in the MIT International Review.

Fisheries being an area of acute concern for me, I was gratified to see an unusually hard-hitting column in this week’s Economist about fish and the EU. It argues that EU goverments have shown “abject cowardice” in relation to their fishers for years. Meanwhile, overcapacity and unsustainable quotas have put the industry into a “suicidal spiral.” The article reports straightforwardly that: “More subsidies would reduce the already slim chance that Europe will ever have a sustainable fishing industry.”

I have argued previously that fishing should never be subsidized. There are far too many dangers of people selfishly exploiting a common good even without them. Indeed, I don’t have much hope when it comes to the long-term viability of world fisheries. That being said, if more people develop the understanding and candour displayed in this article, perhaps the madness can eventually be brought to heel.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon June 23, 2008 at 5:59 pm

The language there is definitely a lot harsher than their usual optimistic take on environmental issues. That said, pretty much everyone agrees that modern fishing is absurdly unsustainable. The evidence is everywhere and inescapable.

t June 24, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Poly (is that how you spell his name) is being interviewed on CBC radio tommorow. They are talking about fish all week.

. June 25, 2008 at 10:34 am

Africa fish fall blamed on Japan
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Santiago, Chile

A coalition of conservation groups and a leading fisheries scientist have accused Japan of damaging the fisheries interests of poorer countries.

They say Japan promotes the argument that whales are responsible for declining fish stocks in order to boost support for whale hunting.

. July 3, 2008 at 10:33 am

Pirate fishing boats target Africa

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

There is a kind of theft that happens every day in a majority of the world’s poor countries – and in many of the richer ones too.

It usually happens out of sight, and most perpetrators get away with it.

The monetary value of this theft is about $15bn per year; the ecological cost can only be guessed at.

. March 14, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Fishy business

SIR – In your story on Africa’s oceans (“A sea of riches”, February 18th) I was misquoted as advocating a ten-year ban on industrial fishing. What I said was that in many places industrial fishing is unsustainable, unregulated and not beneficial for the local economy or coastal communities. Regulating the industry is also costly for governments, while much of the income generated is filtered away. In the short term, where the prospect of well-regulated industrial fisheries is unlikely, a temporary moratorium on the most destructive practices may be the only way to avert an environmental catastrophe. But a ten-year ban on all industrial fishing in Africa would be silly; it is not what I proposed.

André Standing
Nairobi

. May 6, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Chinese fishermen have been detained in Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, all of whose maritime claims overlap with or mirror China’s. But it is not just in contested waters that they get into trouble. Chinese have also been detained in the Russian Far East, North Korea and Sri Lanka in recent years. In 2011 a Chinese fisherman stabbed a South Korean coastguard to death. The next year one was killed by the police in Palau, a tiny Pacific republic. Farther afield, last December two dozen African countries called on China to stop illegal fishing off west Africa. And just this week four Chinese fishermen were freed from detention in Argentina.

More than national sovereignty, what is driving these far-flung adventures is that China is by far the world’s largest consumer (and exporter) of fish. Chinese fish-consumption per person is twice the global average. Aquaculture has met much of this growing demand. But China’s wild catch also dwarfs that of other countries (13.9m tonnes in 2012, compared with 5.4m for Indonesia, 5.1m for America, 3.6m for Japan and 3.3m for India). Overfishing and pollution have blighted China’s inshore fisheries. Stocks are severely depleted: in the South China Sea, with a tenth of the global fish catch, inshore (coastal) fisheries have just 5-30% left of the stocks they had in the 1950s. Chinese fishermen are driven farther offshore and into distant waters.

China’s government encourages this, seeing food security as a priority and fishing as a good source of jobs (14m of them). In 2013 the president, Xi Jinping, visited Tanmen, a fishing port on the southern island of Hainan, and urged fishermen there to “build bigger ships and venture even farther into the oceans and catch bigger fish.” The government provides subsidies for new boats, fuel and navigation aids.

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