Thursday, July 23, 2009

The economic value of rebuilding depleted fish

There's big money to be made with smart fishery management. That's the unsurprising conclusion of a new report.

Where overfishing has reduced fish populations, battles over what to do often center on the cost of much money fishermen can lose from restrictions on fishing. Sometimes neglected is the economic value of much money fishermen can make once rebuilding is complete. This study looks at the value of rebuilding in one region of the US, the Mid-Atlantic. According to the sponsors of the study:

“Results from this study provide strong analytical evidence that there is significant value in rebuilding fish populations and lost financial benefits from delayed action,” said Dr. John M. Gates, report author and professor emeritus, Departments of Economics, Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, University of Rhode Island. “It’s important to note that the primary, direct benefits represent a conservative estimate and, if related economic benefits had been included, the result would likely expand well beyond the figures estimated in this study.”

Delays in rebuilding translate to lost opportunities for commercial and recreational fishermen to catch the maximum amount of fish that can sustainably be taken from a population. Failing to quickly address overfishing and allow populations to rebuild as quickly as possible forgoes current financial benefits and may result in more costly regulations in the long–term.

I think the battle isn't so much over whether it's a good idea to rebuild, it seems to be more about who gets those benefits once rebuilding is complete. Who survives the trip through the "valley of death" that rebuilding looks like to fishermen? We need clear decisions on how to manage the transition to rebuilt fisheries.

No comments: