Overfishing is expensive. By fishing at today’s levels, the EU is borrowing from future fish resources and thus future income at high interest rates – ranging from 10% to over 200% – according to scientists.
In order to quantify the degree of overfishing on 13 European fish stocks, German scientists have used biological and economic data to calculate the so-called ‘shadow interest rate’ that society has to pay when we allow continued fishing at low stock sizes instead of letting the stock grow to a more productive level.
With the rate of fishing applied in 2010, the EU payed 199% interest rate compared to the most economically viable way of fishing. The interest rate was 90% compared to fishing at levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY).
This also illustrates that fishing at MSY is not the most economically efficient way of fishing; higher profits would be made if catches were below the fishing mortality Fmsy (which can lead to fish stocks above the biomass Bmsy).
In other words: according to the researchers, lowering the total allowable catch could be regarded as an investment in future fish stocks that could lead to a considerable return in profits.
On 18 December an important vote takes place in the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee: should the Common Fisheries Policy aim at rebuilding fish stocks to profitable levels where we pay a low interest rate, or should we keep the status quo? The vote concerns the basic regulation in the Common Fisheries Policy (Rapporteur: Ulrike Rodust), which will be voted in plenary early next year before negotiations between the Parliament and Council.
Fisheries ministers have a chance to lower the interest rates already next week, as they meet to set the 2013 quotas for the Atlantic, North Sea and Black Sea.
Table: Shadow interest rates for 13 major European fish stocks. Shadow interest rates for the TAC in 2010, assuming that economically efficient or Fmsy management would be applied from 2011 onwards.
|Stock||Shadow interest rate (compared to most efficient management)||Shadow interest rate (compared to Fmsy management)|
|Cod, Eastern Baltic Sea||66%||40%|
|Cod, North Sea||199%||90%|
|Herring, Central Baltic Sea||48%||29%|
|Herring, North Sea||19%||21%|
|Herring, Irish Sea||17%||11%|
|Norway Pout, North Sea||16%||10%|
|Plaice, Western English Channel||135%||67%|
|Plaice, Irish Sea||67%||39%|
|Plaice, North Sea||56%||34%|
|Saithe, North Sea||220%||93%|
|Sole, Celtic Sea||27%||18%|
|Sole, Eastern English Channel||34%||24%|
|Sole, North Sea||103%||55%|
The European Commission summarises the study: Viewing fish stocks as economic investments
Martin F. Quaas, Rainer Froese, Helmut Herwartz, Till Requate, Jörn O. Schmidt, Rüdiger Voss: Fishing industry borrows from natural capital at high shadow interest rates, Ecological Economics, Volume 82, October 2012, Pages 45–52