Best way to protect ocean fisheries? Let nations profit from them

Berkeley News –

Overfishing is a major problem for the world’s oceans, but a strategy adopted nearly 50 years ago has helped protect fisheries: giving nations exclusive rights to waters 200 miles offshore and letting them police their own fish stocks.

A study by UC Berkeley graduate student Gabriel Englander shows that the nations that reap the most value from fisheries within their exclusive economic zones (EEZs) are the most effective at keeping other nations out. These results, published this week in the journal Nature Sustainability, are the first to demonstrate that assigning property rights to countries leads to the protection of fisheries from unauthorized fishing.

EEZs were first established in the 1970s, giving nations authority over fish, oil and mineral resources in a huge chunk, some 39%, of the world’s oceans. Before that, countries had authority only within three miles of land, leaving the bulk of marine resources free for exploitation.

Using newly available data, Englander found that unauthorized foreign fishing is 81% lower just inside EEZs compared to just outside them. Today, more than 95% of global marine fish catch occurs inside EEZs.

The results could have implications for preserving fisheries in the remainder of the ocean. The United Nations recently convened the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) to consider the creation of new marine protected areas on the high seas, which are remote and costly to police.

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