Global Fisheries’ Sunken Billions

Billions Of Dollars Are Lost At Sea But Different Paths To Fisheries Reform Show Promising Results

  • New economic analysis reveals that, because of overfishing, global fisheries forego more than $80 billion a year, compared to an optimal scenario.
  • Allowing fish stocks to bounce back to healthier levels would cut losses and create revenue for long-term growth, while helping fisheries adapt to climate change and meet global demand for seafood.
  • Experience in several countries shows there are multiple ways to arrive at a more sustainable and profitable level of fishing.

A new World Bank report, The Sunken Billions Revisited: Progress and Challenges in Global Marine Fisheries, confirms what many intuitively know: overexploitation is not a good strategy to manage a renewable natural resource like fish stocks, for steady profits, reliable jobs and long-term growth. For global fisheries as a whole, about $83 billion were foregone in 2012, compared to a more optimal scenario, largely because of overfishing.

The report, which uses a bio-economic model developed by Professor Ragnar Arnason of the University of Iceland, is an update of a 2009 study published by the World Bank and the FAO, called The Sunken Billions: The Economic Justification for Fisheries Reform. By explicitly quantifying the potential economic benefit forgone in global marine fisheries, The Sunken Billions underscored the urgency of improving marine fisheries governance and generated additional momentum toward restoring overexploited fish stocks.

Since then, the World Bank and partners have worked with numerous countries to help put fisheries on a more sustainable path. Below are five snapshots from recent or ongoing efforts that showcase different paths to arrive at sustainable development in this sector.

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