The fishing Ponzi scheme

From Austin Storm
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Today, the world’s governments provide over US$30 billion in subsidies each year — about one-third of the value of the global catch — that keep fisheries going, even when they have overexploited their resource base. As a result, there are between two and four times as many boats as the annual catch requires; yet the funds to “build capacity” keep coming. The jig, however, is nearly up. In 1950, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated that, globally, we were catching about 17 million metric tonnes annually of fish (cod, mackerel, tuna, etc.) and invertebrates (lobster, squid, clams, etc.). Reported marine catches peaked at about 90 million metric tonnes per year in the mid-1990s, and they have been declining since. Much like Madoff’s infamous operation, which required a constant influx of new investments to generate “revenue” for past investors, the global fishing-industrial complex has required a constant influx of new “stocks” to continue operating. Instead of restricting its catches so that fish can reproduce and maintain their populations, the industry has simply fished until fish populations were depleted and then moved on to new or deeper waters and to smaller and stranger fish. And, just as a Ponzi scheme will collapse once the pool of potential investors has been drained, so too will the fishing industry collapse as the oceans are drained of life.

- Daniel Pauly, Aquacalypse now: the end of fish