Respecting ecological limits increases monetary output and biodiversity

Published on November 28, 2020

On 21-22 November Östersjöfiske 2020, a two-day conference on industrial fisheries in the Baltic Sea, took place in Simrishamn county in the south of Sweden. This was the 6th annual Östersjöfiske gathering.

Although starting from a national outlook the conference explored several angles of fisheries of importance for the whole Baltic sea area. A recurring topic was ecosystem boundaries and the management principles through an ecosystem approach, i.e., the ecosystem sets the limit for a possible outtake of fish and the management must adhere to these limits and be adjusted thereof.

However, although the legislation is often in place implementation and compliance fail, depleting the resources. Reasons identified for the lack of concrete measures of implementing ecosystem-based management include a multitude of weak targets with no prioritization, lack of will from decision makers, path dependency within organizations, high demand of information and a lack of sector integration between agriculture and sea-based management,such as fisheries.

Some good examples exist though, where a proper fisheries management within ecological limits and a decreased fishing pressure resulted in a higher monetary output and increased biological values.

For example Costello et al 2016 pints out that: “Current status is highly heterogeneous – the median fishery is in poor health (overfished, with further overfishing occurring), although 32% of fisheries are in good biological, although not necessarily economic, condition. Our business-as-usual scenario projects further divergence and continued collapse for many of the world’s fisheries. Applying sound management reforms to global fisheries in our dataset could generate annual increases exceeding 16 million metric tons (MMT) in catch, 53 USD billion in profit, and 619 MMT in biomass relative to business as usual. We also find that, with appropriate reforms, recovery can happen quickly, with the median fishery taking under 10 years to reach recovery targets. Our results show that common sense reforms to fishery management would dramatically improve overall fish abundance while increasing food security and profits.”

Furthermore, another tool for sustainable fisheries is ecolabelling where the MSC label is a global label attracting large public awareness. Although under debate during the summer regarding the herring fisheries in the Baltic Sea the MSC is a heavy player within the industry. Currently, ca 15 percent of the global fisheries carry the MSC label. Nevertheless, eight certificates were withdrawn late this year, on herring and blue whiting in the north east Atlantic due to insufficient management resulting in a cumulative fishing by several countries exceeding scientific advice.