February 1st to 5th 2016
Olhão, Portugal
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Natural Resources

Scientific Session: Natural resources: overexploitation, fisheries and aquaculture

'Overfishing – Not one problem and not one solution'

Jake Rice – Chief Scientist Emeritus, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

This talk will first review what overfishing is, from the perspectives of fish populations, fish communities, and human communities. Overfishing has meaning at each of these scales, but the nature and consequences of overfishing get increasing complex as the scale expands. Moreover, although the core of what constitutes overfishing may remain the same at each scale, the boundaries between what is overfishing to all perspectives, and what are just different choices made by harvesters, managers, and ultimately society become increasingly blurred. Unfortunately the boundaries also become increasingly important for policy decision-making.

No one wants to see the outcome that is “overfishing” perpetuated, and all interests would like to see the practices that produce that outcome avoided or altered. However, many factors contribute to unsustainable fishing, and choice of effective measures to deter overfishing depends which factors dominate in a particular case. This talk will explain how a more than decade-old framework can help to decompose the large and heterogeneous category of practices called “overfishing” into factors related to the fish population, fish community, and human community components of sustainability. It will then review evidence the types of policies and measures that can be used to address the causes at each scale. Unfortunately the integration of that framework will show how policies designed to address one factor of unsustainability may necessarily amplify the threats from other factors, and measures effective at one scale may be undone by practices continuing at a different scale. Overfishing cannot be effectively addressed without taking on challenges of globalization of economies  and equity in distribution of benefits from using our resources. These are far more complex issues than just finding ways to “fish less”.