Marine fishing industry losing $50 billion annually, UN study finds

9 October 2008 – The world’s marine fisheries are losing $50 billion each year because of poor management, inefficiencies, and over-fishing, according to a new joint report released today by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank.

The study draws attention to industry issues and financial losses, which over the last three decades total over $2 trillion, a figure roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Italy.

“Right now, no one is winning,” said Rolf Willmann, FAO Senior Fishery Planning Officer and one of the report writers, in a press release issued today. “Much of the industry is unprofitable, fish stocks are depleted and other sectors of the economy foot the bill for an ailing fishing industry.”

But the report also argues that well-managed marine fisheries could turn most of these losses into sustainable economic benefits for millions of fisheries and coastal communities.

“It is not just about boats and fish. This report provides decision-makers with the economic arguments for the reforms needed,” said the Fisheries Team Leader for the World Bank, Kieran Kelleher.

According to the study, the bulk of losses occur in two main ways: depleted fish stocks means there are fewer fish to catch, increasing the cost of finding and catching produce; and fleet over-capacity occurs, which means the economic benefits of fishing are decreased due to redundant investment and operating costs.

The study suggests strengthening of fishing rights, greater transparency in allocation of fish resources and greater public accountability for fisheries management as measures to restore and safeguard the industry.

“Sustainable fisheries require political will to replace incentives for over-fishing with incentives for responsible stewardship,” said Mr. Kelleher. The FAO report offers policy initiatives to create profitable and sustainable fisheries.

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