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Economists: Reduce fish catch now for bigger net profits later
Date:12/6/2007

A new and compelling argument for reducing fish harvests the profit motive could persuade world fishers to endure the short-term pain of lower catches for the long-term gain of higher returns for their labor, according to authors of a ground-breaking study on fisheries over-exploitation.

They say their findings, published in the journal Science Dec. 7, will help overcome a key cause of over-fishing industry opposition to lower catches by demonstrating that when stocks are allowed to recover, profits take a sharp turn upward.

It has always been assumed that maximizing fishing profits will lead to stock depletion and possibly even extinction of some commercial species, says co-author Quentin Grafton, research director at the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University (ANU) and one of the co-authors of the paper Economics of Over-exploitation Revisited.

But our results prove that the highest profits are made when fish numbers are allowed to rise beyond levels traditionally considered optimal. In other words, bigger stocks mean bigger bucks.

The simple reason is the stock effect: when fish are more plentiful and thus easier to catch, fishers dont have to spend as much on fuel and other costs to fill their nets profits are higher.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) deems an estimated 25 percent of world fish stocks depleted stocks with strength below levels that produce maximum sustainable yield. (Akin to pruning a bush, the maximum sustainable yield of a healthy fish stock is achieved after some harvesting; when there are too many fish, the stock suffers from disease and predation.)

According to Grafton and co-authors Tom Kompas and Ray Hilborn, if stocks were assessed against the levels that maximize profit, many more fisheries would be considered over-exploited. Their work also shows that higher costs (such as fuel), lower output prices for fish
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Contact: Terry Collins
terrycollins@rogers.com
416-538-8712
Australian National University, Crawford School of Economics and Government  
Source:Eurekalert

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