« Back to Home Page

Failing to Save Global Fisheries Could Cost Over 20 Million Jobs, UN Says

| Wednesday May 19th, 2010 | 4 Comments

In order to prevent the collapse of global fisheries by 2050, some 15-22 million fishermen worldwide would have to find another line of work, according to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).

That sobering statistic is included in a preview of UNEP’s wide-reaching Green Economy report due out later this year.

About one billion people get their primary source of protein from fish, and about 520 million, or 8 percent of the world’s population, is economically dependent on fishing, directly and indirectly.

But that source of food and income could be literally gone in 40 years, according to Pavan Sukhdev, head of UNEP’s green economy initiative. “That is not as absurd as it sounds, as already 30 percent of the ocean fisheries have collapsed and are producing less than 10 percent of their original ability,” Sukhdev told reporters Monday.

The UNEP report shows that the financial benefit from acting to save fisheries would be substantial: $1.7 trillion in the best-case scenario, at a cost of $220-320 billion.

Included in that price tag is the cost of buying back some 9-13 million fishing vessels and relocating fishermen in other lines of work.

Subsidies hastening collapse

The report singles out fishing subsidies of $27 billion a year, most of which exacerbate the problem of overfishing.

The report divides the subsidies into the “good,” the “bad” and the “ugly” (who knew the UN had a sense of humor?). Good subsidies, which encourage sustainable fishing, are only $7.9 billion of the total, while the bad, which lead to overcapacity and overexploitation, make up the lion share — 16.2 billion — of subsidies. Three billion dollars worth of ugly subsidies, like misguided conservation programs, actively reduce fish populations.

Subsidies vastly out-weight the total value added by fisheries each year, which the UN estimates is about $17 billion, as of 2005.
Practices targeted by the report include fuel subsidies for fishing fleets, and inducements to increase the size of fishing trawlers. The UNEP report recommends a turn towards more “artisanal” fishing with smaller boats.

▼▼▼      4 Comments     ▼▼▼

Newsletter Signup
  • Bill S.

    Great article, but I think the headline is incorrect? Saving the fisheries won't cost jobs, it will save jobs.

    • BC Upham

      Well, depends on how you look at it. In the long run, yes it would save fishing jobs. But in the short to medium term, there has to be less fishing boats with less fishermen operating them. That's the hard truth. Less fish caught = less fishermen catching them.

  • Satya Nandlal

    It will be good to read the whole report before commenting. I am interested in knowing the source of information for this report…..is it from FAO or other studies/research.

    Providing subsidies seem to be singled out as the main problem but I think one has to critically consider the factors causing pollution of our aquatic environment.
    ………..

  • Satya Nandlal

    It will be good to read the whole report before commenting. I am interested in knowing the source of information for this report…..is it from FAO or other studies/research.

    Providing subsidies seem to be singled out as the main problem but I think one has to critically consider the factors causing pollution of our aquatic environment.
    ………..

  • Pingback: Canadian Cod Fisheries Show Signs of Recovery