Fishing Public Resources For Public Benefit

Rupert Crilly, Researcher, Natural Economies, nef (the new economics foundation)


The marine world has been a cornerstone of human economic activity for centuries. Once the realm of inexhaustible abundance, the Blue Economy has become one of scarcity and unsustainable human impacts. Fisheries, for example, are plagued by endemic overfishing, discarding, and an increasingly inefficient and subsidy-dependent fishing industry. Marine resources, from fish to broader ecosystem services, should be used for public benefit. Using profits or financial returns alone rarely serve as complete indicators of an activity’s public value, and can in some cases be entirely misleading. Alternative uses of marine resources must be independently weighed against each other based on their economic, social and environmental impacts, particularly with an emphasis on sustainability. To make them comparable, it can be helpful to monetise these impacts using an extended cost-benefit analysis framework. We illustrate this with a case study of cod fishing in the North Sea, where the principles are equally applicable not just in global fisheries but all marine resources. With a complete picture of their associated impacts, economic activities and their public resource requirements can then be planned to ensure the most beneficial ones are prioritised with access to marine resources.

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