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The impact of fisheries on economy and jobs

Explore how fisheries and its associated industries economically support between 10 - 12% of the world's population.

Fisheries and its associated industries (e.g. packaging, transport etc.) economically support between 10-12% of the world’s population.[1]

The “Blue Economy” as a whole, was estimated in 2010 to generate an output of $US1.5 trillion (~2.5% of the world Gross Value Added).[3]

What’s fisheries’ impact on employment and trade?

The region with the largest employment in fisheries is Asia, with almost 85% of the world’s fisheries and aquaculture employment.[5] Import/export data shows that China represents 14% of global exports, and other countries like India and Thailand representing a further 4% each.[5] In general, developing countries are net exporters of seafood to countries in Europe and North America, as well as Japan.

These three consuming regions have a high internal demand, and so are reliant upon foreign fisheries sectors to meet consumer demand.[6] But they still have a significant amount of intraregional trade, with both Asia and Latin America have just under 50% of their total trade within their regions, and Africa trading around 30% of its catch internally.[6]

What’s the economic cost of unsustainable practices?

Unsustainable fisheries cause an estimated loss of over US$80 billion – meaning, 20% of the value of the global fisheries industry.[8]

By developing a sustainable fisheries sector, there is more opportunity in the long run for development across economic, social and environmental fronts.[4] However, achieving sustainability is no easy feat, especially when there are other factors to consider.

What challenges are fisheries in developing countries facing?

For example, countries like Bangladesh, Mozambique and Uganda may have high potential in developing their blue economy, but face challenges like common policies in shared bodies of water, the cost of electricity for storing catch, lack of transportation needed in the export market, and more significantly, the limitations in their ability to certify that the products meet international standards for hygiene.[10]

What’s aquaculture’s role in economic development?

Aquaculture is the next horizon for development in many regions, as it has the combined benefits of nutrition and food security, as well as economic development.[11]

For example, in the drought regions of Zimbabwe, NGOs started fish farms in small hold dams, which were used to store water for agriculture. They found that the fish farms provided extra food security as well as more jobs and better nutrition in the region.

While they struggled to become a true export industry (due to the challenges mentioned above), the fish farms managed to improve household incomes and employment in the region overall.[12]

The paradox of sustainable development

Economic development and trade is expected to migrate towards larger more industrial fisheries worldwide.[13] Despite the higher number of small fisheries, large-scale fishing vessels bring in higher financial gains.[5]

On one hand, larger institutions are easier to audit and ensure environmental compliance compared to a fleet of small-scale independent fisheries. However, there are worries that large-scale fisheries could also push out culture and communities, which could cause other knock-on effects for the region, including disenfranchisement.[14]

Furthermore, the challenge that all fisheries face is climate change. Fisheries will need to adapt to keep up with predicted and unforeseen consequences resulting from rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification and other ecological and oceanographic factors.[15]

With this challenge in mind, governments will need to reassess traditional economic development models for the fisheries industry, as they do not properly reflect factors like environmental impacts, general resilience or even long-term individual income. The term “sustainable development” has been commonly used in recent years, but to be sustainable, there is a biological limit that must be recognised.

Economic development from fisheries can’t follow trends of capital accumulation and infinite growth, because fisheries will only continue to provide employment, economic growth and food security if they are sustained within safe biological limits – and not overexploited.[4,7]

*Ocean Acidification: the process of the ocean water becoming more acidic due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The primary concern is its impact on calcifying, or shelled, organisms (e.g. Corals, crabs, copepods) as it weakens their shells, impacting their survival and therefore their ecosystems as a whole.[19]

*Safe Biological limits: This refers to harvesting within the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) of a wild capture fishery. The MSY is the annual catch of fish that can be harvested from a system indefinitely without depleting the stock. At its simplest form, catching less fish than are produced through breeding in the wild stock.[20]

Author: Moray Swanson

© FoodUnfolded
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Sustainable Seafood: Barriers and Opportunities in the Fishing Industry

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