New way to save fish—and fishers
19 May 2015

An end to poaching will benefit ocean conservation and fishing communities worldwide, an Australian-led scientific study shows.

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) have found that well-enforced fishing areas can boost the incomes of fishers by up to 50 per cent through catching more fish, compared with those fishing in unregulated ‘anything-goes’ areas.

Protecting both the world’s ocean life and the livelihoods of fishers creates a win-win situation for both fishing communities and conservation, says lead author Ms Katrina Davis of CEED and The University of Western Australia (UWA).

“And as Australia considers increasing its marine reserves and regulated fishing zones, it’s encouraging to find that the cost of managing these areas can be offset by larger profits for our fishers as well as tourism in places such as the Great Barrier Reef or Ningaloo Coast, ” she says.
Ms Davis explains that uncontrolled industrial and consumer demands are driving over-fishing in the world’s oceans, threatening the survival of reefs in places such as the Coral Triangle. To manage this threat, governments are setting up reserves and regulating fishing in certain locations – all of which allow fish stocks and fisheries to recover.

However, the effectiveness of these systems depends on support from coastal fishing communities, whose livelihoods may be affected by no-take or regulated fishing zones where catch is restricted, she says. “Around one billion people rely on fish for protein, and tens of millions fish for their income. Apart from the potential loss of earnings and food, some communities even have to pay the cost of the enforcement themselves.

“This can deter them from supporting wise marine management – and some fishers may even be driven to poach, which leads to a spiral of decline in the oceans.”

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