Aquaculture for all

New Research Projects More Encouraging Future for Ocean Dependents


GLOBAL - Turning the tide on the standard gloomy narrative of oceanic decline, an exciting new research series projects a more urgent, yet encouraging, future for all who depend on the sea.

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Ocean Prosperity Roadmap: Fisheries and Beyond explores how a transition to sustainable resource use – for example, by fishing smarter, not harder – can reduce poverty while increasing economic growth, food production, and fish populations.

The human stakes are high: ocean resources employ 260 million, nourish three billion, and face grave risks.

Yet collaborative teams of scientists and economists found that if oceans were managed sustainably, within 10 years, profits could annually grow 115 per cent to $51 billion over today.

However, if fishery reforms are not adopted and status quo remains, the health of the oceans will continue to decline. Compared to this “business-as-usual” scenario, the benefits of sustainable fishing appear even more striking: globally, fisheries could annually yield 17 million metric tons (23 per cent) more wild fish, generate $90 billion (315 per cent) more profits, and boost the amount of fish left in the water for conservation by 112 per cent.

These powerful conclusions emerged from models using a massive database of 4,373 fisheries that represent 77 per cent of the ocean’s catch. That’s far more precise and granular than previous analyses.

It’s also more useful: decision-makers gathered at Blue Week Lisbon – including governments and investors in the ocean economy – can now rank key geographies, compare costs vs. benefits, and prioritize targeted investments within their development, conservation and food security goals.

The Ocean Prosperity Roadmap helps redefine sustainability at sea. It shows stakeholders how, where, and why we can meet today’s needs, while increasing food security, livelihoods and the richness of life in the future, which will add two billion more people by 2050. Key results include:

Fisheries can be a case study in turning back the trend of an ocean economy in decline

While fisheries are in decline in several parts of the world, regions that have invested in effective fisheries management are experiencing opposite trends, with renewed stocks, intact ecosystems and bolstered economies. Although the transition to sustainable fisheries will require investments, a wave of early movers indicates that investors stand ready to turn the tide.

In addition to improved fisheries yield and ocean health, the financial benefits of improved fisheries greatly outweigh the public costs, on the scale of 10 to one.

The Ocean Prosperity Roadmap research documented standard best practices that can lead to these outcomes, including:

  • Enacting measures to prevent overfishing
  • Implementing measures to reduce fishing pressure when stocks become depleted
  • Having a robust evaluation of the status of stocks
  • Enforcing regulations to prevent illegal fishing
  • Preventing a race to fish and excess capacity

While there are public costs to upgrading fisheries management, which can seem substantial, the benefits of recovery far outweigh these incremental investments, on the scale of 10:1. The upside model indicates that fisheries can be made healthy again, relatively quickly — even while fishing continues – recovering in just a decade.

The majority of countries have made a good start towards effective fisheries coastal governance, but all still need work.

Coastal areas are home to nearly half of the world’s population. Balancing multi-stakeholder interests stemming from private sector activities, conservation priorities and social needs, require good coastal governance. The Coastal Governance Index, which was released as part of the collection, is the first-of-its-kind effort to measure regulation and effectiveness of coastal governance. Most countries score in the top half of the index, suggesting that governments have taken initial steps to balance the needs of the environment and economic development. New Zealand and the United States top the standings. At the same time, all countries have substantial room for improvement, as none score highly in all six categories.

The overall collection is the result of work by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, California Environmental Associates (CEA), the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), and the University of Washington (UW).

To access a synthesis of the collection or each study go to

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