The world’s catch of marine fish exceeds the level that would maximize its economic value. Restoring populations to such optimal levels, known as rebuilding, would increase the annual value derived from fisheries (known as “economic rent”) by $66 billion, according to a June 2012 paper by Rashid Sumaila and colleagues in the journal PLOS ONE.
The Path to Rebuilt Fisheries
Rebuilding would involve reducing global fishing fleets to sustainable levels and ending harmful subsidies, which contribute to excessive fishing capacity. This would cost an estimated $203 billion, which includes funding for vessel buybacks and transitional payments to fishermen who stop fishing. Improved profitability would exceed the cost of rebuilding after about 12 years, the authors estimate. Employment and total returns on capital from fishing would decline, but the remaining ﬂeet would become more profitable, produce more food, and generate more tax revenue.
Effects of Rebuilding
Annual Economic Value of Rebuilding
|Today, -$12.5 billion |
The economic returns from fishing are not as great as they could be, mainly because fleets are too large, which has led to overfishing. Government subsidies both promote this excessive fleet size and cost taxpayers money. As a result, the overall economic value of fisheries is negative.
|After Rebuilding, $54 billion |
If subsidies were cut and fishing reduced to sustainable levels, annual value would increase to $54 billion—about $66 billion more than the current value of global fisheries.
Other Benefits of Rebuilding
The economic value of rebuilding is greater than this study’s estimate of $66 billion, which does not include these additional benefits.