Wild Fisheries: New Hope for the Blue Economy


By Amanda Leland

What is the blue economy? Hundreds of people from around the world are gathered this week in Cascais, Portugal at The Economist’s World Ocean Summit 2015 to answer this question and discuss ways to catalyze growth in this important sector.

Historically, capture fisheries have been the leading edge of the blue economy. Communities, businesses, and cultures have been built on fishing the abundant resources of the sea. Today fisheries contribute more than $270 billion to global GDP. But overfishing is pushing fish populations toward collapse and an emerging view is that fishing is an industry in rapid decline. If nothing is done, the doomsayers will be right: collapsing fisheries will compromise the livelihoods of some 38 million fishermen and women around the world and take away a key protein source for 3 billion people.

I see a more hopeful future in which economic growth, food production, and sustainability create a self-reinforcing upward spiral, resulting in more fish in the water, more food on the plate, and more prosperous communities around the world. This kind of triple bottom-line outcome should serve as a model for the blue economy.

Science and experience from around the world demonstrate that the oceans are resilient and can rebound when fishing is sustainable. Countries including Australia, Belize, Chile, Denmark, Namibia, Norway, and the United States are reversing overfishing, reviving coastal communities, and bringing the oceans back to life.

For example, in Belize fishermen and government officials are taking sustainable fishing nationwide. Just last week the cabinet voted to adopt “managed access”, which grants small-scale fishermen secure rights to their local fish resources in exchange for adhering to science-based limits on catch and no-fishing areas. Early adopters of the approach in Belize are already seeing a dramatic decline in illegal fishing, rebounding fish populations, and more stable —> Read More