"Deep-sea fisheries can be sustainable only where the fish population grows quickly and fisheries are small-scale and use gear that don't destroy fish habitat," said Dr. Norse. "With slow-growing fish, there's economic incentive to kill them all and reinvest the money elsewhere to get a higher return-on-investment. Killing off life in the deep sea one place after another isn't good for our oceans or economies. Boom-and-bust fisheries are more like mining than fishing," Dr. Norse said.
The lawlessness of the high seas adds to overfishing in the deep. So do nations' fisheries subsidies.
High seas trawlers receive some $162 million each year in government handouts, which amounts to 25% the value of the fleet's catch, according to Dr. Rashid Sumaila, an author and fisheries economist at UBC.
The authors of this Marine Policy paper say that the best policy would be to end economically wasteful deep-sea fisheries, redirect subsidies to help displaced fishermen and rebuild fish populations in productive waters closer to ports and markets, places far more conducive to sustainable fisheries.
"Instead of overfishing the Earth's biggest but most vulnerable ecosystem, nations should recover fish populations and fish in more productive coastal waters," says Dr. Norse. "Deep-sea fishes are in deep trouble almost everywhere we look. Governments shouldn't be wasting taxpayers' money by keeping unsustainable fisheries afloat."
|Contact: Elliott A Norse, PhD|
Marine Conservation Biology Institute