How Fishermen Can Replenish the Seas

It may sound like a tall order: By 2020, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal for oceans calls on the world to “manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems…effectively regulate harvesting…end overfishing…restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible…[and] produce maximum sustainable yield.”

Can we really meet those targets in five years? I believe we can. Promising signs, backed by groundbreaking research, show how quickly we can replenish the world’s seas while providing enough seafood to feed an additional 600 million people at today’s per capita consumption rate — if we get the incentives right.

The stakes keep rising. Forty percent of the global population live within 60 miles of salt water. Many small coastal communities rely on ocean fisheries, which add $270 billion to global GDP, support 260 million livelihoods, and provide protein for nearly 3 billion people. Meanwhile, acidification, pollution, rising tides, and overfishing converge to undermine seafood harvests. Unless we reverse this spiral, we face a serious food crisis.

So how can I remain optimistic? Because I’ve seen a simple idea known as secure fishing rights help catalyze dramatic ocean progress.

In the past, officials tried to manage overfishing by piling up regulations on how, when, where, and with what people could fish. But as fisheries declined, risks grew, tensions mounted, and the old flawed systems began to give way to a more effective approach.

Environmental Defense Fund and our partners encouraged governments to cooperate with fishing communities to design clearly defined rights, responsibilities and rewards from the bottom up.

It has worked.

In areas where secure fishing rights have been adopted, the results speak for themselves. For example, the U.S. red snapper catch in the Gulf of Mexico has more than doubled since a —> Read More