Overfishing continues to be one of the major problems facing many commercial fisheries around the world.
Despite the efforts of many countries, many fisheries are still nothing more than a cash-grab, free-for-all, with little or no concern for sustainable management practices.
The 2020 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Review of Fisheries reported that at least one quarter of global fish stocks with known status are overfished and a third of fishing activity is not adequately managed.
The OECD said current fisheries policies are part of the problem. Over the 2016–2018 period, the 39 countries in the Review reported spending (USD) $9.4 billion annually in support to fisheries, accounting for about 10 per cent of the value of catches. Over a third of this support lowered the cost of fuel, vessels and gear, which frequently encourages overfishing.
“Governments should stop subsidizing fishing inputs, directing support to helping fishers operate their businesses more effectively and more sustainably,” said OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría.
“Countries have an opportunity to come together at the WTO (World Trade Organization) in an agreement to reduce harmful fisheries subsidies. They must do so, to refocus efforts and limited resources to ensure the protection and sustainability of our oceans, marine biodiversity and the livelihoods of coastal communities.”
The 2020 report also provided the latest information about illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, which undermines the effectiveness of management and threatens the sustainability of fish stocks.
While there has been significant progress over the past 15 years in fighting IUU fishing, particularly on implementation of port state measures, the OECD said more needs to be done to improve the transparency of vessel registration and authorization processes, the stringency of transshipment regulation, the market measures to increase traceability and to close markets and fisheries services to IUU fishing operators.
Effective management of fish stocks is also crucial for the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the commercial fishing sector. Yet policies are lagging in many countries. Only about two-thirds of management mechanisms directly control reported catches and landings and only about a third of countries and economies use total allowable catch limits (TACs) in all the management processes they report on.
Fortunately, both harvesters and processors in this region are equally invested in prosecuting sustainable, well-run fisheries.
Take the fishery in lobster fishing area (LFA) 33 for example.
This commercial lobster fishery has been active for more than 100 years in LFA 33. This area covers 25,722 km2 from Halifax to Shelburne County. Though the LFA extends out to 92 km (50 nautical miles), the fishery is primarily prosecuted within 15 km (100 m depth contour) on the eastern end and more recently in offshore areas on the western end.
The fishery is effort controlled, with restrictions on the number of licences, number of traps per licence (250), season length, minimum legal size (MLS) and retention of berried females.
As a result of these good fishing and conservation practices, the landings in LFA 33 have been steady and consistent and the future looks good for lobster stocks in this area off southern Nova Scotia.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has reported that the current status of LFA 33 is well within the healthy zone and indicates strong positive signals for this stock. This bodes well for the future of this important fishery and those that depend on it for their livelihoods.
In its 2020 Review of Fisheries, the OECD said many governments around the globe can make their fisheries more productive, sustainable and resilient by moving towards internationally recognized best practices, such as the ones being carried out off Nova Scotia’s shores — specifically in LFA 33.
All too often, the only news coming from a particular fishery is when something goes wrong or obstacles are encountered. It is only when you take a step back and compare the way we manage our fisheries with others around the world, do you realize all the things that we are actually doing right.
In fact, the majority of our fisheries here can and should be used as sustainable models for similar fisheries around the globe. We are a testament that good fishing practices lead to good fishing.