August 6, 2008
Precaution is What’s Needed
As you report (BusinessDay, July 26-27), who should control fisheries isn't simple. Economically, rational fisheries management doesn't always equal sustainable use and would seldom equal sustainable management of the ecosystem those fish live in. For many fish that are slow-breeding, long-lived and in deep water, mining of the resource makes economic sense. Profits can then go into other businesses or mining of new fish stocks.
And even where sustainable use makes sense economically, the result will be "maximum sustainable yield'' of that fish stock -- usually a tiny proportion of the original biomass. Managing one stock sustainably won't maintain a natural ecosystem, with the normal mix of species, intact ecosystem structure, and species at risk from by-catch still present.
So-called sustainable fishing destroys corals and sponges, and can mean replacement of kelp forests with urchin barrens, for example.
Marine ecosystems aren't just there to let fishermen make money or feed our economy. They're public assets. The only place where many public values are provided for is within marine reserves.
To protect all public values, we need a precautionary approach to fisheries decisions, and many more no-take marine reserves.
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