5 Year Pause Could Reverse Effects of Overfishing on Global Fish Stocks

Effects of Overfishing Could Be Reversed -- If Fishing Is Halted for 5 Years
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After decades of rampant overfishing, it would take approximately five years to bring the world’s fish stocks to the ideal 600 million tons if all fishing efforts worldwide were brought to a halt, according to a new World Bank study. It would take approximately 30 years to reach this number if fishing were reduced by just five percent a year.

The new study, entitled “Sunken Billions Revisited,” also noted that allowing the world’s fish stocks to replenish themselves could offer a major payoff: overfishing costs more than $80 billion in lost revenue every year, as overexploitation of fish stocks has forced trawlers to sail further and longer to catch fish.

If the fish supply were to reach its optimal level of 600 million tons, profits from the world’s fisheries could reach $86 billion, more than 28 times what they are today, according to the study.

“Giving the oceans a break pays off,” Laura Tuck, World Bank vice president for sustainable development, told Reuters.

Allowing the world’s fish stocks some time to recover would improve the livelihoods of the millions of people who depend upon the fishing industry and would reduce instances of hunger throughout the world, according to the World Bank.

“Once the fisheries have recovered, it is going to cost much less to go out and fish,” Charlotte De Fontaubert, a co-author of the study by the Washington-based World Bank, told Reuters. “They are going to catch much more and much higher quality.”

Thirty percent of fish stocks were overfished in 2013, a ten percent increase since 1974, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Cost is just one of several benefits of reducing fishing in the coming years. Earlier this week, Journal Current Biology projected a 50 percent decrease in the African penguin population due in large part to overfishing, and last month the Independent reported that 37 fish species that are important sources of food in Africa are threatened with extinction due to overfishing in Europe.

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Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.