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Sustainable fishing tourism is an increasingly popular way of diversifying artisanal fishers’ activities. WWF has been actively involved in the promotion and technical support of the Sustainable Fishing Tourism in the Mediterranean.

The current steep decline in ocean health and productivity threatens the wellbeing of hundreds of millions of people. It’s a particularly serious prospect for some small coastal communities which rely on small-scale fishing. Dwindling catches and falling revenues put income and food security at risk.   These communities are often in regions which receive a high number of tourists, and some small fishing ports are gradually becoming more like marinas for summer visitors. Some small-scale fishers have seen their work areas shrink to the point where they don’t fish at all during the tourist season.

33% of global fisheries are overexploited and 59% are exploited to the maximum level.

Sustainable Fishing Tourism is one of the solutions that WWF is promoting in many countries to ensure sustainable livelihoods of coastal communities  in today’s overfished oceans.  In 2007, WWF was one of the first promoters of Pescatourism and Ittiotourism, supporting small-scale fishers, MPAs and local tour operators in Italy. Since 2014, WWF has supported fishers and administrations in Algeria and Tunisia to introduce Sustainable Fishing Tourism as a tool to diversify fishing activities in areas identified as future MPAs, with training for professional fishers in safety, communication, and tourism. Thanks to an exchange visit for the central administrations of Algeria with fishery cooperatives in France and Italy, a legislative decree to regulate Fishing Tourism was published in Algeria in July 2016, recognising Fishing Tourism as a diversification of fishing activity.  

Read the full publication here.

With net-free zones locked in, businesses and fishing groups consider strategies for a new era of 'fishing tourism'

ABC Rural With net-free zones locked in, businesses and fishing groups consider strategies for a new era of 'fishing tourism'

tourism board goes fishing for local solution

Business operators, tourism advocates and fishing groups have begun planning for a new era of fishing tourism, following the introduction of three new net-free zones in Queensland.

A debate between commercial and recreational fishers raged throughout this year, and ended with the State Parliament endorsing the policy and the zones coming into effect on November 1.

Within the net-free fishing zone north of Mackay, stakeholders held a workshop at Cape Hillsborough yesterday to discuss the next steps.

Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort owner Ben Atherton said he expected businesses throughout his community to benefit from the new zone.

"In the drive market, or the caravanning industry, 89 per cent of [people holidaying in caravans] are recreational fishers," Mr Atherton said.

"So, obviously by us getting the net-free zone, we are hoping that we can capitalise on that within that caravanning market.

"We are hoping they come here and, when they come here, we can promote other businesses in the area so they can get more money out of the economy and hopefully more jobs as well."

The new net-free zones, near Rockhampton, Mackay and Cairns, have a ban on all net fishing, a change that angered commercial fishers.

The rationale behind the decision was that it would lead to greater numbers and sizes of species that recreational fishers enjoyed targeting, particularly barramundi.

A new marketing tool

Mr Atherton said he would actively promote his resort as being inside the net-free zone.

That strategy will also be used in marketing by Mackay Tourism, which had already been using fishing to attract tourists before the net-free zones came into place.

Mackay Tourism general manager Steven Schwer said the net-free status would have a genuine impact.

"In terms of the Mackay region, we have been promoting the fishing experiences for quite a while now, and there is a lot more that we want to do now that we have got the net-free zone," he said.

"That's something we can add into our little bag of goodies when we are going to the market to promote the things there are to do here.

"Of course, when you talk about a net-free zone, automatically the perception changes in people's minds and they think, 'Okay, great, more fish stocks'.

"So they are more likely to travel to areas with net-free zones than they would for a fishing holiday in other areas."

Catch it, release it, post it online

Stakeholders in each of the three net-free zones are considering strategies to promote their areas.

Several people from the Rockhampton area travelled up to Cape Hillsborough for the workshop, including Infofish Australia manger Bill Sawynok, who specialises in fish stock monitoring.

Most of them are much more interested in the fishing experience, and then being able to get their peers to recognise them through the photos that they put on Facebook.

"There is an underlying marketing ability through social media, because if you get guys coming into the area and catching a metre-long barramundi, or a metre-long threadfin, you don't need to do any marketing, they will do it for you through social media," he said.

"So that is going to be a fairly important marketing tool, particularly if we are going to attract these young guys who are going fishing.

"They are the guys who are going to spend the big money, because they have invested huge amounts of money in purpose-built boats, some of them cost over a hundred grand, just to get on the water to catch these fish.

"If you can attract those people to your area, the big plus in that is that most of them don't want to catch fish to 'kill and keep'.

"Most of them are much more interested in the fishing experience, and then being able to get their peers to recognise them through the photos that they put on Facebook."

The workshop at Cape Hillsborough included a presentation from the fisheries department on compliance measures, a discussion on infrastructure needs for a fishing tourism industry, and a session on strategies to get the concept up and running.

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tourism board goes fishing for local solution

Victorian Recreational Fishing Tourism Strategy out now

07 December 2021

View original release here.

The State Government has released its  Victorian Recreational Fishing Tourism Strategy showcasing the diverse, year-round fishing opportunities on offer across the state.

The strategy was an election commitment and is part of the Government's $35 million Go Fishing Victoria plan, aiming to position Victoria as Australia's premier recreational fishing destination with some of the world's best multi-species, multi-region fishing tourism locations.

The strategy focuses on working towards combining the best of Victorian tourism alongside outstanding fishing experiences.

The ten locations identified in the strategy – as well as the fish species to target at each of them – includes West Coast blue barrels, Lake Eildon cod mecca, Gippsland Lakes and Mallacoota, Sunset Country, Central Highlands trail, Burnanga Trail, Aussie bass Trail, High Country, South West Trophy Lakes and the Grampians, and Port Phillip Bay.

The strategy will implement 53 recommendations over the next five years and provide a vision, goals, and priority areas for further developing fishing as a pivotal contributor to Victoria's visitor economy.

It will encourage more people to fish more often and entice inbound and intrastate visitor markets to fish these destinations, stay longer and contribute to regional economies.

Freshwater favourites such as Murray cod, golden perch and trout are recognised in the strategy alongside popular saltwater targets, including southern bluefin tuna, snapper, and kingfish.

Victorian Fisheries Authority is leading the strategy's implementation in partnership with regional tourism bodies and shires and is available online at  www.vfa.vic.gov.au/tourismstrategy .

Quotes attributable to Minister for Fishing and Boating Melissa Horne

"Victoria offers some of the most exciting and diverse recreational fishing opportunities. This strategy will help us to attract more people from overseas and within Australia to wet a line and explore some of our state's most picturesque destinations." 

"We know recreational fishing is big business and contributes a great deal to regional tourism – supporting local jobs at a time our economy continues to bounce back.”

Quote attributable to Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula

"The strategy will make it easier for visitors to go fishing at the amazing number of top locations on offer around the state, and to book a holiday with confidence."

Solutions to Overfishing

Coastal fisheries initiative - challenge fund global knowledge competition.

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Winner Stories

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The Innovative Solutions

Winner: PescaLocal (Local Catch)

Coalition Encourages Tourists to Celebrate and Preserve Local Coastal Fisheries

A proposal to create a premium basket of seafood sourced from artisanal fishers and female fish buyers and sold locally was recognized by the World Bank’s CFI-CF Global Knowledge Competition as the winning solution put forth from Cabo Verde. The PescaLocal solution aims to reduce pressure on overfished species in high local demand by increasing consumer demand and sales of less familiar species to local restaurants and hotels. 

Cidade Velha is steeped in nearly six centuries of history. Since 2009, the city on the island of Santiago has been designated Cabo Verde’s first UNESCO heritage site, making it a progressively popular destination for the country’s visitors. Cultural heritage and picturesque beaches across the arid Atlantic islands have traditionally been critical drivers of Cabo Verde’s economy. Tourism accounted for 24 percent of the country's GDP and 10 percent of formal employment prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Today, visitors are rediscovering its beauty. A local coalition hopes to build on the new tourism wave to roll back a troubling trend: the depletion of local fish stocks. 

Some coastal fisheries are performing poorly in Cabo Verde, where fishing is concentrated on only a few popular species. The Instituto do Mar de Cabo Verde (National Institute for Fisheries Development) recently found that black mackerel and grouper fisheries are overexploited. Overfishing occurs largely due to the catch of juveniles and fishing during breeding season. 

“It is important to promote local fish and in a sustainable and durable way,” said Januário da Rocha Nascimento, Secretario of Associação de Defesa do Ambiente e Desenvolvimento (ADAD) in Cabo Verde.

Now most fishers vie for a limited number of species that are popular among buyers. Unless something is done, an already bad situation is likely to worsen. 

“Fishermen have to go so far to find fish,” said Ana Gonçalves, technical biologist at ADAD. “There is a problem with security,” due to the danger for fishers searching unknown waters, she said, “and most times they don't bring back fish.”

Building on a model used by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in Portugal, ADAD has assembled a local coalition to create the seafood basket sourced from artisanal fishers and female fish buyers in Santiago Island, Cabo Verde. The basket would be for sale at a premium to a network of restaurants and hotels interested in sustainability.

The PescaLocal solution aims to reduce pressure on overfished species in high local demand by increasing consumer demand and sales of less familiar species to local restaurants and hotels. 

We will work together “in collaboration with fishers’ associations and with the government, hotels and other organizations,” said Nascimento. “Fishers will be able to get five percent more income based on the quality and origin of the product.” 

PescaLocal aims to create a more diverse and sustainable supply of fish species, as fishers  comply with sustainable fishing rules and regulations, such as minimum catch size and closed seasons. The initiative will begin with building the awareness of fishermen and women who sell the fish to comply with measures for the management of fisheries. The coalition will seek to increase local technical capacity in resource conservation and improve fish handling and processing to help reduce post-capture losses. 

The coalition also seeks to provide entrepreneurship training to build skills to identify alternatives to fishing and encourage financial and business organizations to invest in fishing communities.  

ADAD and IIED are working with other partners on a media strategy to support legislation and scientific plans, and better inform the public about the value of sustainable practices.

The broad representative coalition that submitted the winning solution involves fisher organizations, hotels and restaurants, local and national government, and local and regional environmental non-government organizations. The partners are International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Associação de Defesa do Ambiente e Desenvolvimento (ADAD), Network of Professional Artisanal Fishing Organizations of Cabo Verde (ROPA-CV), Camara Municipal da Cidade Velha (CMCV), Hotel Pestana, Hotel Limeira and Hotel Vulcão, Cais de pesca da Praia, MiniMinistério do Mar, Escola de Hotelaria e Turismo de Cabo Verde (EHTCV), and Associação dos Pescadores e Peixeiras de Cidade Velha (APPCV).

Solutions to Overfishing

Winner: Small Pelagic Sustainability Coalition

Private-led Coalition in Ecuador Seeks to Drive Sustainable Fishing Practices

A proposal to establish a common responsible sourcing policy in the fishmeal industry was recognized by the CFI-CF Global Knowledge Competition as the winning solution put forth from Ecuador. The coalition will encourage fishing vessels supplying ingredients to the fishmeal industry in Ecuador to progressively comply with sustainability and transparency rules. 

Fishing is a way of life along more than 2,000 kilometers of Ecuador’s coastline. Yet the livelihoods of tens of thousands of fishers, their families, and their communities, along with the prospect of the seafood industry, is in peril. 

In 2017, much of Ecuador’s fish resources were in a state of overfishing or overexploitation, according to data collected on nine of the small pelagic and other fish species by Ecuador’s Public Institute of Aquaculture and Fisheries Research, known as IPIAP. That assessment was supported by local industry and The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Foundation, with the support of the GEF-funded Global Marine Commodities project.

The findings foretold a looming disaster, prompting the National Chamber of Fisheries and 22 industry organization to work together on a Small Pelagics Sustainability Improvement Project, knows as the SPS-FIP. 

“There's been almost four years of work with a coalition on addressing challenges,” said Jimmy Anastacio-Solis, SPS-FIP Project Manager at the National Chamber of Fisheries. 

Since 2018, SPS-FIP has built strategic alliances with IPIAP and Ecuador’s Vice Ministry of Aquaculture and Fisheries to implement a process of fisheries improvement. They enabled achievements in research and management. Recognizing the threat of overfishing, their joint efforts encouraged a doubling of the number of days closed to fishing to 134 to support the rejuvenation of fish stock.

The lesson from the debut SPS-FIP efforts is to strengthen and expand the coalition to draw in more fishers and help them contribute to a durable solution. “Without partnerships, it is not possible. We need the joint efforts—large scale collaboration—to address sustainability,” said Anastacio-Solis.

The coalition’s winning solution seeks to create a common responsible sourcing policy to increase the scale of sustainable management of the small pelagic fishery, which supports more than 24,000 jobs and exports of $235 million annually. 

The solution is built on three pillars, according to Anastacio-Solis. 

The first is the strong industry coalition that already exists.  The coalition consists of the private sector actors that represent more than 80 percent of fishmeal production in Ecuador. This bodes well for increasing cooperation across the value chain and offers the potential to sustainably manage the fishery at scale. 

“The second pillar is to create an ideal policy,” that all companies involved in the coalition agree to follow and that contribute to sustainable use of resources, he said. 

Success of the common responsible sourcing policy will require effective enforcement and monitoring of participating vessels and companies to ensure adoption of progressive improvements and compliance with the policy. While ultimately enforcement is the role of government, Anastacio-Solis predicted the industry-led approach will encourage greater acceptance, draw in more partners, and slowly reduce informality.

The new approach would encourage informal operators to join in fishery management and adopt responsible practices. It would create public registry of boats and factories to increase transparency in the supply chain and discourage irregular and illegal fishing practices.

“The third pillar is cooperation from the government in exchange for information and transparency” from coalition members that support monitoring of resources,” said Anastacio-Solis. 

Vessels supplying small pelagic product to the fishmeal industry in Ecuador would gain incentives to progressively comply with verifiable improvements in fishing practices, legal compliance, and transparency. The gradual approach to improve management aims to make it easier for vessels to apply responsible fishing practices incrementally. It recognizes the cultural, economic, and other challenges to adopt new practices in a sector with so many informal operators.

The winning solution was submitted by the Camara Nacional de Pesqueria (National Chamber of Fisheries), in coalition with a wide coalition of public and private entities that includes: Fortidex S.A., Negocios Industriales Real, NIRSA S.A., HERCO, BORSEA, Productos Pesqueros S.A., Tadel, Multiproyectos S.A., Urisa, EXU, Ecuafeed S.A., Pesqueria DIMOLFIN, Comuna Jambeli – Santa Elen, Polar, Rosmei, SEIMAR S.A., INHARIPAC S.A., Likefish, Grupo Riveto, Skretting, Vitapro, BioMar, Cargill, Ministerio de Produccion Comercio Exterior, Inversiones y Pesca, Instituto Publico de Investigacion de Acuicultura y Pesca, and Global Marine Commodities.

Solutions to Overfishing

Winner: Fishery Area Access Network

Fishery Management Offers Foundation for Stronger Communities in Indonesia

A proposal to manage fishing practices through cooperation rather than competition was recognized by the World Bank’s CFI-CF Global Knowledge Competition as the winning solution put forth from Indonesia. The local coalition’s ambition is to build communities that are less vulnerable to multiple shocks, including threats from a changing climate.

Indonesia’s Muna District spreads over multiple islands in the Flores and Banda seas. Connections between communities and neighboring islands are not easy.  Livelihoods revolve primarily around traditional fishing and farming activities.

In Pasi Kolaga, families have become vulnerable in recent years as fish stocks have been exhausted, much like their neighbors in nearby islands. The catch isn’t as large as it used to be. 

Fisheries are largely unregulated and operate within an informal economy in Indonesia. Fishers often take whatever fish they can catch. 

A coalition of global and local civil society organizations have teamed up for change, with a concerted effort to manage fishing practices through cooperation rather than competition. Their approach leverages provincial government policies and fosters sustainable fishery practices through co-management approaches and rules to regulate their use of fishery resources. 

“Talking about fisheries is not only about the fish and the fishers,” said Raymond Jakub, technical and fisheries program director with Rare, a civil society organization that is part of the local coalition. “The stakeholders are working in tandem to build a mindset for longer-term success,” he said. 

The coalition is engaging women in the communities, encouraging savings, and fostering new financial options. They aim to help families improve incomes and manage money even  during periods of increased scarcity. 

“It is also about fishers’ families and the broader aspects of social life,” Jakub said. 

The coalition facilitates and empowers local community groups and governments to identify and map fishery resources and form a Managed Access and Reserve area starting in Muna District. 

The community members aim to work collaboratively with district and provincial governments to develop marine spatial and management plans, allocate access rights, and establish no-take zones to allow restoration of habitats and protect spawning grounds. It will also create community surveillance mechanisms. The provincial government legally supports the establishment and operation of Fisheries Managed Access & Reserve areas as regulated in Governor's Regulation Southeast Sulawesi No.36 2019.

Under this approach, local fishers, who are responsible for ensuring the sustainability of the areas, would gain primary access rights for use. The coalition itself has limited enforcement capacity, yet with a fisheries management plan it can drive the local approach and facilitate successful execution. 

To foster a more stable local economy, the coalition will work to formalize small and medium seafood enterprises, improve access to finance, and build capacity to reduce post-capture losses and improve fish quality to increase incomes in the target communities. 

The solution goes beyond fishing.

“There will be training on financial literacy,” said Waatina, a local facilitator for Pasi Kolaga Savings and Loan Associations (Kelompok Simpan Pinjam), “We want to ensure that the benefits we get from improving the fisheries can also improve households.”

Challenges remain. To engage buyers willing to pay higher prices will require product quality and volume consistency. Reaching larger cities with sufficient consumer demand will require reducing transportation and logistics barriers. 

Over time, the coalition seeks to replicate the model in other areas of the district and in the province as it works to solidify public and private mechanisms to sustain and scale the solution.

“It’s very exciting to see the changes in the community,” Jakub said. He expects that such an inclusive solution can attract further interest beyond the initial coalition.

The coalition includes Rare, Kelompok Pengelolaan Akses Area Perikanan Pasi Kolaga (Pasi Kolaga Managed Access & Reserves Management Body), Kelompok Masyarakat Pengawas Pasi Kolaga (Pasi Kolaga Community-based Surveillance Group), and Kelompok Simpan Pinjam Pasi Kolaga (Pasi Kolaga Savings and Loans Association).

Solutions to Overfishing

Winner: Direct Sales from Artisanal Fishers to Consumers in Lima

Peruvian Coalition Strives to Make Fish Supply Sustainable

A proposal to expand an innovative fish marketing approach was recognized by the World Bank’s CFI-CF Global Knowledge Competition as the winning solution put forth from Peru. The coalition aims to sell responsibly sourced seafood products directly to customers in restaurants, supermarkets, and online in Lima.

Seafood plays a vital role in the diet and cuisine of Peru. The government even declared a day to honor ceviche, a raw fish delicacy cured in citrus, as part of its national heritage. The world-renowned favorite is only one among many that draw on local fish. Peruvians consume on average nearly 25 kilograms of fish annually, the most in South America, according to FAO.

Peru’s 1,500-mile Pacific Coast has fed its love affair with fish, which is well known. Less well known is the harmful impact of seafood’s circuitous path to reach Peruvian markets, restaurants and homes. 

Before reaching consumers, seafood is handled by a half dozen or more middlemen, leaving the fishers detached from customers and the value some buyers are willing to place on the quality of their product. The process from sea to table is inefficient and lacks transparency. 

The supply chain is destructive to coastal fisheries, according to the Simone Pisu, co-founder of Pesco Pescadería. Known as Pesco, his company is a social enterprise that describes itself as the first fishmonger in Lima to connect local artisanal fishery products directly with consumers.  

PesCo has been working to shorten the supply chain, to sell responsibly sourced seafood products directly to customers in restaurants, supermarkets, and online in Lima. It has already engaged with 2,500 customers and 15 restaurants in Lima.  

Building on its success to date, PesCo has proposed a broad coalition to expand its model of more direct sales from fishers to buyers. In doing so it aims to increase the income of participating fishers by 20-30 percent.

“We are a small organization,” said Pisu. There are hotels and restaurants seeking more sustainably sourced fish than PesCo can currently supply. Faster progress can be made, he predicted, “if partners are aligned about the practices, the goals, and the minimum conditions we consider for responsible fishing.” The Global Knowledge Competition encouraged them to formalize the partnership and build a common vision of a sustainable coastal fishing industry, Pisu said. The coalition aims to improve the supply chain to redistribute value back to the fishers.

Better fishing practices require more engagement with fishers, many of whom operate informally. The coalition aims to get more fishers to register for licenses and improve practices with appropriate equipment. 

The coalition plans to support artisanal fishers in achieving higher prices through training in responsible fishing techniques, including adopting selective fishing gear, respecting seasonal restrictions, and complying with minimum catch size. That is expected to create a virtuous cycle, according Pisu. The higher prices for quality fish products will build appreciation for the improved practices among the fishers. 

Traceability technology and systems and a publicly accessible website are envisioned to allow the coalition to report progress. Better data on artisanal fisheries can inform sustainable resource management.

Already PesCo is working with well-regarded chefs and large restaurant chains to create special menus using responsibly sourced fish. The process of building more mainstream demand will take time and patience, however. 

“It's really difficult to create that critical mass of consumers [interested in sustainably sourced fish] but it can be done,” said Adriana Sanchez, the Responsible Seafood Strategy Director at the sustainable fishing advocacy group Wave of Change.

Consumer awareness campaigns aim to increase demand for responsible fish products and provide financial incentives for artisanal fishers to adopt legal and sustainable fishing practices. 

Sanchez noted that it took more than two decades to build awareness and demand for sustainably sourced fish in the United States. Peru has different social and economic conditions that offer another context, but she remains optimistic that the coalition can generate a public conversation around sustainability that will change consumer preferences and behavior as more products becomes available.

The coalition consists of Pesco Pescadería, Comunidad Pesquera de San Juan de Marcona, Instituto Humboldt, Consorcio Manglares de Tumbes, Osaka Restaurante, Hotel Ibero Star, Central Restaurante/Mater iniciativa, Gremio de pescadores Artesanales de la Caleta el Ñuro, and CLS-Perú.

Solutions to Overfishing

Runner Up Stories

2022 Solutions to Overfishing

Runner-Up: Sustainable Fishing Promotion in São Vicente and Santiago Islands

Coalition Fosters Good Practices to Reduce Overfishing in Cabo Verde

A coalition for Sustainable Fishing Promotion in São Vicente and Santiago Islands seeks to encourage sustainable fishing practices and create alternative opportunities to fishing. It was recognized by the World Bank Coastal Fisheries Initiative-Challenge Fund (CFI-CF) Global Knowledge Competition in 2022 as the runner up put forth from Cabo Verde.

In Cabo Verde, sought-after coastal fish are running low.

A study carried out from 2018-2020 by the National Institute for Fisheries Development, (Instituto do Mar de Cabo Verde), found that black mackerel and grouper have been overexploited. The primary causes are juvenile catch and fishing during breeding season.

Old ways die hard, despite the risks and efforts to restrict these practices.

Local fishers “sell the popular fish species at a very low cost and without processing,” said Maria Ivonne Andrade, a Technical Expert at Renascença Africana-Associação das Mulheres da África Ocidental –Célula de Cabo Verde (RAMAO). They rely on fishing for their livelihood and are just seeking the fish that are available whenever they can expect to sell them.

Monitoring and enforcement of fishing practices is limited, so fishers take little risk in failing to comply with new requirements. Meanwhile, there has been little formal connection to date with other interested stakeholders that might engage fishers in practices to preserve fish stocks or create alternatives to fishing. The Sustainable Fishing Promotion solution seeks to involve key fisheries sector actors and investors in São Vicente and Santiago islands, Cabo Verde to change the dynamic and generate interest in sustainable fishing practices and a more diverse local economy.

The coalition plans to put an emphasis on building awareness in fisher communities around the value of good fishing practices.

“One way is to identify alternative fish species and other [non-fishing] activities” and communicate this information to fishers to take pressure off the mackerel and grouper fisheries, explained RAMAO President Josefina Chantre Fortes.

The coalition also aims to generate interest within fishing communities through communication and outreach around non-fishing activities that can be supported by the financial community. Targeted entrepreneurship training will be aimed at promoting alternative livelihoods to fishing, such as tourism, that can improve the income of women and fishermen.

The coalition will identify ways to add value so fishers can increase the price for fish harvested in a responsible manner. The coalition will reach out to the business and financial communities to help strengthen infrastructure and equipment needed, such as cold storage, to add value to the fishing products. Parallel efforts will be made to spur more investment from the financial sector and create public awareness of business opportunities in tourism.

“We feel privileged to have received this recognition by the World Bank,” said Chantre. She said that they will try to use this platform as an opportunity to raise awareness of their efforts among potential sources of financing that can help them implement their vision and solution.

The coalition is comprised of Renascença Africana-Associação das Mulheres da África Ocidental –Célula de Cabo Verde (RAMAO), Instituto do Mar, The University of Cape Verde, The National Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture (DNPA), and Associação para o Ambiente e Desenvolvimento (ADAD).

Solutions to Overfishing - Ecuador

Runner-Up: Monitoreo Participativo (Octopus Monitoring Coalition)

High Demand for Quality Octopus in Ecuador Can Drive Incomes, Sustainable Fishing

A coalition’s solution to promote a participatory monitoring program was recognized by the World Bank Coastal Fisheries Initiative-Challenge Fund (CFI-CF) Global Knowledge Competition in 2022 as the runner up put forth from Ecuador. Under the plan, fishers will ensure their octopus catch to meet quality and sustainability criteria so restaurants and other buyers are willing to pay a premium to the market price.

Just a few years ago, visiting surfers were wowed by a new ceviche dish featuring octopus caught in coastal waters off a then little-known beach town inside the Galera San Francisco Marine Reserve in Esmeraldas province.  Soon, more tourists came for the octopus ceviche, and stayed for the beaches with warm teal waters.

It didn’t end well for the local octopus fishery.

“The community depleted the octopus population to meet ceviche demand,” said Juan Carlos Medina, head of marine mapping at Instituto Nazca de Investigación Marina (Nazca Institute of Marine Research), “So now—it’s really incredible—in order to prepare this special ceviche, they import octopus from Peru.”

The coalition is establishing a long-term participatory monitoring program with communities in the artisanal octopus fishery based in Manabi province of Ecuador.

The solution includes approaches to improve the management and health of artisanal octopus fishery in two marine reserves through a closed season, introduction of more selective gear use, and minimum catch size.

Khen.uio, a restaurant chain in the coalition, has agreed to purchase responsibly sourced octopus directly from ASOSALAN, a fishers’ association, at significant premium to market price.

“In the market fishers receive just $2.50-3.50 per pound for octopus. The restaurant is paying $7.50 per pound—more than double what they usually get,” said Medina. “There is one condition: the catch should be responsible. For an octopus to be considered a responsible catch it should weigh more than 1000 grams.”

Medina said that other chefs around the country are demanding responsibly sourced octopus. The supply chain currently rewards the middlemen, and many buyers are not satisfied with the quality of the fish delivered. They are willing to pay a high premium directly to fishers if the fishing methods are responsible.

The coalition aims to establish better awareness of sustainable fishing practices, including permitted catch areas, minimum catch size, and avoiding capture of egg-bearing females. The coalition will establish educational campaigns and training programs with local fishers, explore product differentiation opportunities and assist further direct sales with restaurants in Quito and other key cities. It will establish a traceability system, improve packaging and transportation, and promote visibility of women who participate in and contribute to the value chain.

“What they are doing is guaranteeing that these octopus are coming from this protected area,” said Medina. That will have a big impact on buyer interest and fisher appreciation of the improved practices, he predicts.

The coalition is made up of Instituto Nazca de Investigacion Marina (Nazca Institute of Marine Research), Asosalan, and Khen.uio.

Solutions to Overfishing - Indonesia

Runner-Up: Raja Ampat Sustainable Anchovy Coalition

Saving Anchovies and Revitalizing Local Industry in West Papua, Indonesia

The Raja Ampat Sustainable Anchovy Coalition is a multi-year effort to co-manage fish stocks. Its proposal to tackle overfishing was recognized by the World Bank Coastal Fisheries Initiative-Challenge Fund (CFI-CF) Global Knowledge Competition in 2022 as the runner-up solution put forth from Indonesia. It seeks to establish fishing arrangements between small-scale fishers and large commercial fishing vessels to allow anchovy stock to recover and improve economic prospects of local fishing communities.

Raja Ampat is a global marine treasure. The waters located off the northwest tip of New Guinea island, in Indonesia's West Papua province are home to hundreds of species of hard corals and more than 1,700 species of reef fish.

Among the small pelagic fish that populate the coastal areas of the Bird’s Head Seascape Papua region are anchovies. Today they are at risk of depletion, largely due to overfishing by commercial vessels that are sweeping the coastal waters clean of fish.

“The local fishermen used to supply anchovy [as bait]” to commercial fishing vessels catching larger fish like skipjack, said Dr. Stephanus Mandagi, a biodiversity, sustainable fisheries and climate change expert with Universitas Kristen Papua (UKIP). But then larger commercial vessels from Sulawesi and other parts of Indonesia introduced large nets that deplete local fish stock and leave little space for artisanal fishing.

“The community has been suffering,” said Mandagi, “They cannot get enough fish” either for bait or to sell at local markets. As the local stock diminishes he now recognizes that if the status quo is maintained there won’t be fish for anyone in the future.

The coalition is taking a long view to fundamentally alter practices and restore the fisheries. Their four-year plan will encourage commercial vessels from other regions to focus on skipjack tuna, while reviving anchovy fishing by local fishers.

The solution would create an anchovy management plan. The coalition members aim to map out the implementation of management measures, enforcement, stock and habitat assessment, and supply chain assessment. Training will be conducted on Ecosystems Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM), finance, corporate management and marketing, and fish product improvement.

The anchovy cooperative aims to restore baitfish supply and help local fishers increase their incomes. The cooperative will coordinate the marketing of baitfish supplied to commercial pole and line industry to catch skipjack tuna and selling dried anchovy to local markets. Meanwhile the cooperative will ensure local fishers comply with management measures to ensure sustainable practices.

The revitalization of the anchovy fishing by local fishers would require smaller vessels with lights that attract sufficient fish. That lighting would be designed to ensure good catches but discourage overfishing.

Under the co-management plan envisioned, large nets now used by commercial vessels would be phased out. Local fishers would work to supply those vessels with bait rather than compete with them.

“The transformation will be done slowly,” said Mandagi. “That's the only way to manage the fishery to make it sustainable.”

The partners in the coalition are Universitas Kristen Papua (UKIP), Universitas Negeri Papua (UNIPA), Muhamadya University, Masyarakat Adat Papua, and Mathbat-Yellu, Fishery Office of Raja Ampat Regency, Marine and Fishery Affairs of West Papua Province, PT Citra Raja Ampat, BLUD of Raja Ampat Marine Park Authority, Koperasi Mina Mandiri, Tafelo, YKAN, and Yayasan Misool Baseftin.

Runner-Up: Protegiendo la Anchoveta (Anchoveta Protection Initiative)

Back to the Future to Save Peruvian Anchoveta

A coalition’s solution to improve fishing practices that protect Peru’s anchoveta fisheries was recognized by the World Bank Coastal Fisheries Initiative-Challenge Fund (CFI-CF) Global Knowledge Competition in 2022 as the runner up put forth from Peru. It will encourage fishing fleets that use selective nets and pair a fishing boat with a support boat to collect and transport fish. The solution aims to reduce fishing pressure and improve fish quality and fisher incomes.

The Peruvian anchoveta found in coastal Pacific waters is a high-quality fish species in the anchovy family and among the most important fisheries globally.

But the common method for catching the fish today leads to products of low quality.

Nets designed to sweep up large amount of fish without regard for their size stress the small, delicate anchoveta. The bulk of the catch in the nets deprive the fish of oxygen. Then anchoveta are damaged as they pour through a hydraulic pump. Further stress and quality reduction occur on deck and when the fish are stored inside the fishing vessel for extended periods.

Fish degraded by this method of extraction fetch low prices. It creates a cycle that compels fishers to catch more and deplete the stock further, putting the fisheries at risk.

Blasco Nuñez, CEO and cofounder of Lumen Sapientiae, a civil society organization supporting local fishing communities, said a new approach can increase fisher incomes and allow more sustainable management of fishery. Lumen is working with the Asociación Nacional de Armadores Pesqueros de la Ley 26920, the largest guild of artisanal fishing shipowners in Peru, around the solution proposed. If successful, sustainable management measures could have a significant impact on stock recovery and benefits for local food security.

The coalition aims to reintroduce selective fishing nets to address overfishing in the Peruvian anchoveta fishery. Such nets were commonly used many years ago to naturally select the best quality fish and protect juveniles but went out of favor as the industry turned its focus to quantity.

Another innovation proposed is boat pairing. “We want to introduce in Peru fishing with two boats,” said Nuñez, who noted that a pairing practice has long been used locally. Today’s pair fishing innovation, however, will require tender boats without nets working alongside the fishing boats with nets.

The pairing approach involves a fishing boat working in tandem with a support boat that collects and transports fish. Pair fishing maintains effective cold storage from catch to landing, supporting quality and improving fishers’ income.

Existing boats withdrawn from fishing will have their hold, hatches, deck lay-out and rigging redesigned for the new practice. Repurposing a portion of the existing fleet will reduce fishing pressure while maintaining industry vitality. A decrease in the volume of fish caught is mitigated by a quality increase that results in the higher price.

The Anchoveta Protection Initiative is also working to develop new supply chains with higher quality anchoveta sold to canneries seeking these products.

The Initiative will further address overfishing through enforcement of existing management measures, including seasonal closures during spawning periods and elimination of illegal sales of juvenile anchoveta to fishmeal producers.

“If a small fleet using selective nets starts earning more money, other fishers will immediately be aware,” he said. They will ask: “Why is he making more money?”

“It is systemic change that we are trying to introduce here.”

The coalition is comprised of Facultad de Ingeniería Pesquera y de Alimentos (FIPA) de la Universidad Nacional San Luis Gonzaga de Ica, and Lumen Sapientiae, which is working closely with the shipowner’s association that represents 360 artisanal fishing vessels.

Solutions to Overfishing

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Article Contents

Introduction, differentiating between global and non-global threats to the sustainability of marine environments, tuna fisheries management as a model for regional consensus on conservation of resources and development of the ocean economy, successes in addressing iuu fishing in national waters, the need to address threats at their source, an outline for action, national examples of tailoring actions for clearly identified problems, achieving consensus for regional action, conclusions, conflicts of interest, author contributions, data availability, acknowledgements.

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Solutions to world-wide fisheries problems are mostly local or regional

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Bob Kearney, Ray Hilborn, Solutions to world-wide fisheries problems are mostly local or regional, ICES Journal of Marine Science , Volume 79, Issue 4, May 2022, Pages 997–1004, https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsac033

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The benefits of multinational agreements that address global problems, such as climate change, must not be diminished by uncritical acceptance that the action that is necessary to address all widespread problems, such as overfishing, is common, globally. Evidence-based identification of the nature and cause of threats to marine ecosystems is the essential first step in effective ocean management. Action that targets each threat across as much as possible of the area in which it arises, which may be entirely different from where it manifests, is the second. These concepts are not new, however, The High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (HLOP) has given them increased impetus by mandating that its signatories, in addressing priority marine issues, which may vary from country to country and collectively be of global importance, must begin with addressing threats in 100% of national waters. The successful management of the world's biggest tuna resources across 50 million km 2 of the Central and Western Pacific is put forward as an example of how an initial commitment to a single shared fisheries resource assessment program can provide the foundation for consensus amongst more than 40 countries on the sharing of the benefits of managed access to widespread oceanic resources.

There is widespread agreement that there are many challenges to the sustainable management of the world's oceans, including fisheries. Some of the problems are so wide-spread that global solutions seem warranted. However, the benefits of global agreement on the need for action, which can be considerable, must not be diminished by the assumption that the appropriate action is the same everywhere. When the logical step of identifying the source of each problem is adhered to, it becomes apparent that solutions are mostly nation or region specific and, as such are best implemented locally. Foreshore developments that damage ecosystems, and point-source pollution, are obvious examples where the appropriate corrective action must be local.

Many similar problems can differ by country and ocean basin and require specific management action suited to each region and circumstance. Overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are two that vary greatly in form and distribution. Yet both are often inaccurately characterized as being global (Sala et al ., 2021 ). There needs to be a clear distinction between problems that are global in cause and extent, requiring global action (e.g. climate change), and problems, such as overfishing, that can occur in varying forms in all the world's oceans but for which solutions can be best delivered at local, national, or regional scales. Such a distinction is seldom a prerequisite for support for generalized calls for action.

The importance of national initiatives in pursuing outcomes of global significance is highlighted in the action plan of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (HLOP) (World Resources Institute, 2021 ). This international initiative rises above many grand, even global, conservation proposals by the priority it gives to acknowledging that sustainability must be accepted as the foundation of more than just ecosystem protection; it is also essential for wise ocean-based production and long-term economic prosperity, both of which are vital for the sustainable development of the so-called blue economy.

International initiatives that espouse global solutions to marine problems often are not based on precise identification of the problems faced by individual countries and how efficient solutions to these problems vary between situations. For example, efforts to enclose 30% of all countries’ waters in MPAs to counter impacts of overfishing (Lubchenco and Grorud-Colvert, 2015 ) are not based on first identifying the priority threats in each country's waters or whether area management is the most effective approach to address overfishing or other threats in all areas. Recent fisheries statistics confirm that many countries are improving the outcomes from fisheries management by increased commitment to traditional fisheries management techniques (Hilborn et al ., 2020 ). Modern resource assessment science has confirmed that most fisheries management problems are best addressed at the country or region level. The high degree of connectivity and complexity of marine environments, together with the mobility of many marine organisms and water-born threats, renders area management problematic, even for relatively small areas. The 30% target is at odds with the final sentence of the HLOP Action Agenda; the overarching vision is underpinned by the commitment by member countries to “sustainably managing 100% of national waters.” This confirms adherence to two fundamental and critical principles: individual governments must take responsibility for the management of at least the priority threats to all of their waters and management must address the well-being of the whole of national marine jurisdictions, not just some part(s) of them.

There are multiple problems that threaten the protection, production and prosperity of the world's oceans. Many of them “are intense and growing” (World Resources Institute, 2021 ). Some of them are global, others are regional, while many are specific to single countries or even parts of countries. Collectively, the pressures are increasing. But not all individual threats are growing everywhere. For some, solutions are at hand and are being implemented in numerous countries, individually and even collectively. Importantly, the effectiveness of addressing each of the priority threats is greatly enhanced when management commitments are tailored to cover the whole of the area of the origin of each specific threat.

Priority global problems for the ocean are dominated by the effects of rising greenhouse gas concentrations. Recent significant changes in these concentrations are disproportionately the result of human population growth, average per capita consumption and associated activities in predominantly terrestrial locations. Their harmful manifestations in oceans are primarily ocean warming, acidification, and rising sea level. As the impacts of global climate change are inexorably linked across terrestrial and marine environments by the continuous mixing of a single global atmosphere even management of 100% of all national waters will not adequately protect against these threats or effectively manage their existing impacts. Global solutions are appropriate and necessary for those problems that are truly global. Global debate of other wide-spread problems can be beneficial but should not be used as an excuse to postpone national action to deliver solutions specific to clearly described problems.

The connectivity of the world's oceans may be less than that of the atmosphere, but it is enough to challenge the management of some threats in small parts of these oceans in isolation. Connectivity is more than adequate to influence global weather and to drive ocean currents in and between oceans. These can ensure broad distribution of multiple oceanic stressors, such as soluble pollutants and invasive organisms, and concentration of others, such as particulate plastics. International cooperation to manage such threats may be essential. The connectivity of oceans also has benefits, such as the facilitation of the globalization of the benefits that effective actions in even parts of oceans can deliver, for example by promoting the growth of selected algae as a means of ameliorating negative impacts of some terrestrial activities such as the production of excessive greenhouse gasses.

The stressors to oceans arising from activities on land are becoming increasingly apparent and problematic. Amongst the most obvious are climate change, inadequately planned coastal “development” and pollution in many forms, including plastics and a wide range of chemical, biological and even physical derivatives, such as nanoparticles. Many pollutants now have almost global oceanic distribution, but their source, prevalence and impact are not uniform. Thus, there is no single marine management action in or on oceans that would provide a global solution to all, or even most, problems.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef, as a World Heritage Area, provides a high-profile example of the need to differentiate between solutions to global problems and those for more localized ones. In the last decade it has been acknowledged that climate change and its associated impacts represent the greatest threat to the Reef. The only solution to this threat is global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the Reef also faces threats that may have equivalents in many other parts of the world but must be addressed locally or nationally. These include damaging coastal development, terrestrial runoff that is being altered by human activities such as mining and agriculture, introduced species and pathogens and inadequately managed fishing. Local actions will not solve global causes of problems faced by the Reef, and global actions will be at best inefficient, and likely distract from, the priority to address specific local threats to the Reef.

International commitments to do more for marine conservation and management, including for fisheries, are necessary and have proven useful (Maguire et al ., 2006 ). Unfortunately, the benefits of such agreement are often diminished by at least some of the participants considering the creation of an agreement as an end in itself. Reaching elusive consensus on the need to take action can provide a sufficient sense of achievement among participants to enable the necessary action to be at least postponed. The creation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 1975 by agreement between the federal Government of Australia and the State of Queensland, was heralded as a great success, but it was to be more than three decades before the major threats to the Reef were correctly identified and management of each seriously attempted (Hassan and Alam, 2019 ).

The strength of the association between a commitment by individual governments to state-of-the-art scientific stock assessments and healthy and well managed fish stocks is compelling. It is of global importance. Recent evaluations of the status of the world's fisheries based on all stocks for which there are credible assessments are inconsistent with the claim that overfishing is a global problem. It is certainly not globally uniform (Costello et al ., 2012 ; Hilborn et al ., 2020 ). Fish stocks in countries and regions where they are systematically assessed and where fisheries are intensively managed are on average increasing. They are also commonly at, or above, management targets. These stocks support approximately 50% of the global fish catch. In contrast, what evidence there is on fish stocks in the waters of countries with inadequate stock assessments and management, the other 50% of global catches, leaves no doubt that many stocks in these countries are overfished and that overfishing is continuing. The abundances of these stocks are on average at about half the levels of the effectively managed ones (Costello et al ., 2012 ).

Similarly, IUU fishing can occur in many parts of the world's oceans. It is a problem wherever it occurs, but it is not a truly global problem. It is largely absent from the waters of countries with strong detection and enforcement regimes, which usually include the cooperation and participation of legal fishing vessels. These countries are essentially the same as those that have a commitment to rigorous fish stock assessments. Reports of overfishing and IUU fishing being global (e.g. Srinivasan et al ., 2010 ) are inaccurate and misleading. These imprecise reports have been used to advocate for global solutions that are more often based on generalized assumptions rather than scientific assessments of individual situations. The resulting proposed global actions often do not include evidence-based assessments of global or even national outcomes from actions of the type being proposed. Such generalizations have distracted public focus and management efforts from those areas where scientific assessment and management of stocks in 100% of national waters is most needed and where tailored action to address priority local threats is most likely to have the greatest positive impact. These local impacts may, in aggregate, affect global outcomes, such as global fish supply and food security.

An increasing number of countries have brought the majority of their fishing related problems under control, e.g. Australia, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, and the USA. In contrast, correcting truly global problems, such as climate change or oceanic pollution, has remained elusive for any individual country and, to date, for all countries collectively.

Overfishing and illegal fishing are, however, not eliminated by the declaration of oceanic areas as “national waters” or “protected areas.” Both must be actively addressed everywhere they are serious threats, including on parts of the high seas. Effective action on the high seas is possible, even though it commonly necessitates international cooperation that can be elusive, particularly when the number of countries is large.

Tuna fisheries often come with problems for multiple countries. They can also pose unusual problems relating to resources on the high seas. Where resources have been successfully shared, an effective starting point has been “sustainably managing 100% of national waters” of all countries that share those resources. The tuna fisheries of the Central and Western Pacific Ocean provide a striking example.

Twenty-two Pacific Island countries and territories, of hugely varying size and wealth, have demonstrated the power of regional cohesion in addressing both overfishing and illegal fishing for the immensely valuable tuna resources in the vast area (approximately 50 million km 2 ) of their collective management influence. Achieving this cohesion was catalyzed initially by commitment from all parties to a shared, single fisheries resource assessment program of internationally recognized quality covering 100% of the waters of all relevant countries and territories. Cohesion was also nurtured by this research being, since its inception in 1977, based in the region; in New Caledonia at the South Pacific Commission (now the Pacific Community, which is the contracted Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) official science provider and data manager). Continuing consensus, even on issues that were initially contentious, such as how to address overfishing, has been cemented by universal acceptance of the quality of the science and the unquestioned integrity of the management approaches it identifies and supports. Consensus on management actions has even spanned the enormous inequalities between small island states and the world's largest distant water fishing nations that are included in the 42 parties to the WCPFC.

Estimates of IUU fishing in the Central and Western Pacific were reported in a recent publication (Widjaja et al ., 2020 ) commissioned by the HLOP and in a 2016 report (MRAG Asia Pacific, 2016 ), to total between 276000 and 338000 tonnes of tuna annually, costing more than 20 Pacific Island states an estimated $616 million USD in lost revenue from fish landings (Widjaja et al ., 2020 ). These figures are incorrect. They were the unfortunate result of comparing data from an unofficial source with that from the official, more accurate one. The discrepancy was considerable. It led the authors to seriously overestimate the amount and impact of illegal fishing in this huge part of the Pacific Ocean and to distort the global implications of this example. More recent information from fishing nations, as reported to the WCPFC by the Pacific Community, shows 100% compliance with the stringent WCPFC data reporting requirements for all but two nations (SPC-OFP, 2021 ). Both were non-Pacific Island members of the WCPFC and the problems they had were not serious: they related to minor inconsistencies in the reporting of catches from small fisheries in coastal areas that were outside the 50 million km 2 area of shared management interest (SPC-OFP direct communication 17/6/2021). They would thus not have impacted stock assessments within the management area or revenue generation by Island States from catches within that area

Illegal fishing by international purse-seine fleets targeting tuna in a huge area of the Central and Western Pacific has been effectively eliminated. Surveillance and enforcement by member states and their former colonial allies coordinated by the regional Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) have been extremely effective. Misreporting of catches has, through 100% observer coverage and rigorous cross-checking of catches by scientists of the Pacific Community, been reduced to at most a few % in the enormous tuna purse-seine fishery (SPC-OFP, 2021 ). Most of this small amount of mis-reporting has been attributable to accidental mis-identification of species, not deliberate mis-reporting (WCPFC, 2011 ). The timely submission of logbook, transshipment, and observer data on the much smaller longline fishery has been challenged by the nature of this fishery. Vessels may fish over much bigger areas than their purse-sein counterparts and often do not come into port for a year, or even more. The nature of this issue is one of timeliness of the availability of the data, not its reliability. The WCPFC is actively pursuing an electronic monitoring solution to the problem with the timeliness of data submission.

What misreporting of catches there is in the WCPFC area represents extremely little, if any, financial loss for coastal states. Under a most innovative management strategy, developed initially by a subset of the Island States, the eight Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), access fees are now based on the number of days a vessel has access to purse seine fishing grounds, not on the traditional charging system of a percentage of the value of the catch that is taken (Clark et al ., 2021 ). As the fees payable by vessel owners are now based on the number of days fished, and not on catch, the incentive to mis-declare catch has been effectively removed. Modern Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) and broader Automatic Identification Systems (AIS), aided by direct cooperation from licensed vessels and outputs from observer programs, ensure the accuracy of vessel location data for license-revenue generation and of catch quantity and location measurments for resource assessment purposes.

Issues of inequity between participating nations is frequently stated to be a major impediment to regional consensus on decisions for regional fisheries management organizations. The success of the shared management of the tuna fisheries of the Central and Western Pacific is even more remarkable because of the tremendous inequality in the size and resources of the Pacific Island countries and territories. Not only is there immense range in the size of their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), but the density of tuna resources in these zones is far from uniform. There is even considerable differences in the national stakeholders in the four major regional fisheries management bodies that cooperate in resource research and management: the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA with eight members), The Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA with 17), the Pacific Community (SPC with 22 Pacific Island countries/territories and four founding member countries) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC with 26 members, seven participating territories and nine cooperating non-members).

In spite of their many differences, the countries of the region are moving to build on their cohesion by making even more creative use of fundamental resource assessment and stock-description science. Together, they are expanding the use of the science provided by the SPC together with catch and effort and other related data collected under the auspices of national fisheries authorities and the three other regional bodies. They are developing a rigorous science-based strategy to stabilize the benefits they will receive from tuna fishing despite the impacts of the shifts in the distribution of tuna stocks, including to the high seas, that are anticipated to result from further climate change (Bell et al ., 2021 ). Their use of quality resource description and assessment data will reduce uncertainty in the modelling of the projected impacts of climate change on the distribution of tuna species. The expected improvements in predictions will enable Pacific island nations to negotiate with confidence with the world's biggest tuna fishing nations over the need to stabilize economic returns from the total tuna resource, as its distribution changes. Pacific Island countries are providing leadership in differentiating between the need for global action to address the causes of climate change, on which they have little impact, and national and regional interventions needed to manage the impacts of climate change on the resources that are vital to their production and prosperity. Given that climate-driven biogeographic shifts in marine resources will be widespread, this tuna case study may be a model that can be applied elsewhere.

The Western and Central Pacific is only one of the many areas where overfishing and IUU fishing have been effectively addressed, albeit the largest and most complex. Australia has had similar success in addressing IUU fishing in the Southern Ocean region of its relatively large EEZ where, after initial problems, there has been only a single incursion by a non-Australian vessel in the last six years (Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), 2021 ).. To the North of Australia, cooperative surveillance and enforcement programs with the governments of Indonesia, the Philippines and more recently Vietnam have resulted in tremendous reductions in IUU activities in the Northern parts of the Australian EEZ and beyond. In 2005/06, 367 foreign vessels were apprehended in Australian waters. These were subsequently destroyed, and an additional 281 vessels were intercepted, and their gear and catches confiscated. In 2008/09 the total number of apprehensions and interceptions plummeted to 27. By 2019/20 the corresponding number was down to four (Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), 2021 ).

International efforts to control IUU fishing elsewhere will likely only be similarly effective if based on precise identification of problem areas and publicly identifying all culprits and bringing them to account nationally, or through international processes. While the largest fishing vessels may have global range, very little overfishing of international waters would be profitable if IUU fishing and illegal supply and distribution chains were eliminated in 100% of national waters. Cooperation between governments and licensed fishing fleets from many countries in the Central and Western Pacific has confirmed the effectiveness of this strategy. The role of legal vessels in identifying and reporting illegal vessels and activities has been fundamental. Importantly, such reporting is not possible in areas closed to all fishing.

Initiatives “to sustainably manage 100% of national waters” effectively must accommodate the need to address stressors that affect the protection, production and prosperity of these waters wherever they arise, even if this is outside national waters. The same characteristic of connectivity that expands the influence of greenhouse gas emissions beyond national boundaries renders management of stressors to the oceans in only parts of the area of impact commonly ineffective. For example, malfunction of an ocean-based extractive activity can lead to dispersion of foreign material that can cause problems that extend beyond the initial location of the threat. Oil from a leaking well can have a greater impact if the well is outside, but immediately up-stream, of an oceanic area of national significance or jurisdiction, than the same leak would have if it originated within the downstream reaches of that country's national waters. Highly migratory fish species can be vulnerable to overfishing across the whole area of their distribution, which is seldom influenced by national, or other non-physical, oceanic demarcation such as management areas. Most threats to ocean health arising from, for example, pollution injected from rivers or introduced species or pathogens from a variety of external sources, cannot be prevented, or even efficiently managed, by actions in the area that they impact; they must be managed at their source, which is commonly remote, and far more often on land than in the ocean. Remedial action may be necessary in impacted areas but, unless the problem is corrected at its source, such action will remain ineffective.

Similarly, not all threats to oceanic production and prosperity are completely constrained by the boundaries of national waters. For example, the management of maritime transport, vessel safety and seafarer well-being, including basic human rights, may begin in national jurisdictions, but modern transport, the benefits of it and the threats to its prosperity, are increasingly multi-national, or even global. Again, the solution to most related problems, even those with global implications, begins with actions within 100% of national jurisdictions. New Zealand has provided an excellent example of how increasing national responsibility for an international fishing problem can constitute an efficient and effective solution.

Several New Zealand fishing companies chartered large trawlers from other countries to catch the quota within New Zealand's EEZ. Concerns were raised that the crew of these vessels, often from a country other than the one in which the vessels were registered, were not receiving even minimum acceptable wages by New Zealand standards. Allegations were also raised that, at times, officers of these vessels bullied crew members. The New Zealand fishing companies could confirm that they were paying the correct wages in bulk to the owners of the foreign boats or to the agents who had organized the crew. However, because of the opacity of international laws and financial transactions across three or more countries, combined with varying national rules and practices, they were unable to confirm that the crew had indeed been justly paid or treated fairly. Although there were no convictions, the New Zealand Government and fishing companies remained sufficiently concerned to actively pursue an effective solution. This was found by requiring that all fishing vessels operating in New Zealand waters be registered under the New Zealand flag. This brings these vessels under New Zealand jurisdiction globally, requiring compliance with New Zealand maritime, labour, health and safety, and criminal laws. The Government also required all crew members to have personal New Zealand bank accounts to ensure all payments could be made directly and transparently to them. Government observers are required on all foreign-owned vessels and independent audits of charter parties are provided to ensure crew visa requirements and wages agreements are being adhered to (Guy, 2016 ).

This effective solution to an international human rights problem has been provided by pursuing the same vision as the HLOP; bringing 100% of the problem within New Zealand's national waters, where the commitment of one government, together with the fishing industry of the same country, was sufficient to solve it. New Zealand fishing companies have confirmed that this solution remains effective (Clement, 2021 ).

Effective protection of, and production and prosperity from, the oceans’ ecosystems will necessitate concerted efforts from at least the majority of countries in 100% of their national waters and a strengthened commitment to international efforts beyond these boundaries. Even more importantly, particularly for those stressors that have greatest global impact, it will also necessitate greatly increased management of the many terrestrial activities that impact oceanic ecosystems.

Determination of the most effective strategies to achieve sustainable management of oceans, that will likely begin within national waters, will require careful assessment of options. The logical steps in this process will be:

Identify all values of oceans that are agreed priorities

Identify the threats to these values and where each arises

Assess the risks of not adequately addressing each threat across the full range of its occurrence

Evaluate the successes from around the world and build on those that are relevant to each specific problem and situation

Based on points 1–4, identify the risk management needed to effectively:

protect the sustainability of oceans and restore them where possible

increase sustainable production from oceans

optimize prosperity from sustainable use of oceans and their contents.

In Australia, excessive catches in commercial fisheries for species such as orange roughy ( Hoplostethus atlanticus ), gemfish ( Rexea solandri ), and southern bluefin tuna ( Thunnus maccoyi ) were obvious examples of mismanagement, for a time. The stocks of more than 40 species of fish taken in commercial fisheries in Australia's offshore waters (outside three nautical miles of the coast), managed by the Commonwealth Government of Australia, were victims of overfishing in the later stages of the 20 th century. All of these fisheries have since been the subject of improved assessments and targeted management by traditional techniques, primarily reductions of effort and catch across 100% of the distribution of each fishery. The latest assessment, based on data up to 2019, is that not one of these 40 species is currently being overfished in Commonwealth waters (Patterson et al., 2020 ).

Australia is not alone in implementing effective management. The U.S. has seen similar success with only 8% of assessed stocks currently fished above target levels (NOAA Fisheries, 2020 ). New Zealand also reports that 94.3% of their catch comes from stocks that are above the abundance level that would cause management concern (Fisheries New Zealand, 2020 ).

Success has not been as marked in the coastal waters of Australia (inside three nautical miles of the coast), which are managed by individual states and where stressors to aquatic ecosystems and the amenities they support, including fish populations, have been dominated by habitat degradation, pollution, introduced organisms and recreational activities, including angling and boating, which themselves represent both realization of the amenity and threats to it.

A model for adapting a Threat and Risk Assessment (TARA) approach to the protection and prosperity of a small subset of Australia's coastal marine ecosystems was proposed for the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) by the Sydney Fish Market (SFM) in 2012. SFM held a strong belief that the popular perception that fishing was the greatest threat to the whole of the world's ocean health and prosperity, including that of NSW, was misguided. So much so that it was distracting management authorities from addressing much greater threats to local and regional problems, including those in coastal NSW. SFM accepted that the degree of initial mismanagement of a relatively small number of internationally prominent ocean harvests had been correctly highlighted as of global concern. Issues such as whaling, large-scale drift-net fishing, the capture of dolphins in tuna nets in the Eastern Pacific and overfishing of stocks of North Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and north Pacific and Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) were prominent examples. But these were specific, open-ocean issues, and time had moved on. Many of these problems had been, or were being, critically assessed and where these assessments were followed by committed management, declines in stocks had been at least halted: several, such as humpback whales, had demonstrated spectacular recoveries. Where quality assessments of stocks had not been integrated into targeted management approaches, problems have continued, such as for several other marine mammals and approximately half of the world's exploited fish stocks (Hilborn et al ., 2020 ).

SFM was convinced that the management of the targeted extraction of living marine resources is relatively easy: eliminate destructive fishing practices and reduce effort and/or catches to scientifically determined sustainable levels and the resources invariably respond. Even when overharvest inadvertently occurs, such as in years of abnormal environmental variation, provided the science is adequate, the negative effects of fishing are normally reversible with even modest levels of targeted and appropriate management. Ocean productivity has been repeatedly shown to be remarkably resilient to fluctuations in abundance of component species resulting from even moderately well-managed extractions. Resilience against cumulative inputs, such as pollution, coastal development and introduced species and pathogens, is not similarly evident; nor is it logical to anticipate it will be. Extraction from the ocean has been proven to be much easier to manage than injection.

Research to explore the utility of a threat and risk management approach to coastal marine conservation was promoted by SFM in partnership with the Institute for Applied Ecology of the University of Canberra. It was subsequently jointly funded by the Australian Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) and based at SFM. This research highlighted the breadth of the range and the large number of different threats to coastal marine environments and provided a preliminary assessment of the relative effectiveness of the management of each. To the surprise of many, it highlighted that there were a number of threats to coastal ecosystems and fisheries resources that were having much greater impact than fishing, even though fishing was directly targeting the living resouces that were the most commonly promoted indicator of well-being of the whole system. Many of the identified problems were area-specific. Most were the result of activities on land, not in the ocean. Most were assessed to be a great deal more difficult and costly to manage than fishing. Very few were being effectively managed. Most, if not all, were not amenable to management by actions in parts of the area of their impacts. Many were, unlike the effects of fishing, not reversible. In the absence of adequate science and identified solutions, many were being ignored, or had been relegated to the “too hard basket” (Kearney and Farebrother, 2015 ).

The NSW Marine Estate Management Authority (MEMA) immediately on its creation in 2014 accepted the logic that the first step in solving a problem must be clear identification of its cause(s). It undertook a comprehensive Threat and Risk Assesment (TARA) for the whole of NSW's oceanic and coastal waters as the foundation of its Marine Estate Management Strategy for the period 2018–2028 (Marine Estate Management Authority, 2018 ). On completion of the TARA, MEMA concluded that the wise management of NSW marine ecosystems and resources required that 100% of the marine estate be managed as an entity and that threats needed to be addressed at their source. The similarity of this conclusion with the vision adopted by the HLOP is notable.

The MEMA Strategy highlighted that the greatest threats to the statewide environmental assets of the marine estate were not managed extraction of marine resouces. MEMA stressed the need to differentiate between the threats to ecosystems and those to the realisation of amenities from those resources. Most of the highest priority threats to both were unmanaged inputs from terrestrial origins. In MEMA's listing of priority threats to coastal ecosystems in particular, there were 12 above fishing (Marine Estate Management Authority, 2017 ). Fishing, if well managed, constitutes the realisation of one of the most important compontents of ocean-based prosperity; high quality food, which by comparison with terrestrial agriculture, including even that of vegetables, has an extremely low environmental footprint (Springmann et al ., 2018 ). The earlier classification by the NSW Government of fishing as the highest priority threat to coastal marine ecosystems was found to be misguided and misleading, particularly as a driver of public opinion and government conservation actions.

Another national initiative, but one with more direct international implications, was provided by Norway. In 1975, Norway acknowledged the crucial links between science and decision making in fisheries management and the lack of these links in many developing countries, particularly in Africa. In partnership with FAO, it established the EAF Nansen Programme and committed the service of a state-of-the-art vessel, the Dr Fridtjof Nansen, for the purposes of research, training and the exchange of knowledge with developing country partners (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2016 ). Norway accepted the link between science and good fisheries decision-making, “demonstrating that the latter must always be guided and informed by quality research” (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2016 ). The strength of this relationship between quality research and effective management is confirmed by recent comparison of the status of fish stocks in countries with, and without, fisheries management based on quality stock assessment science (Hilborn et al ., 2020 ).

Where cooperative international fisheries management has been effective, for example, in the Western and Central Pacific tuna fishery discussed above, the primacy of a shared commitment to relevant science of a quality that is accepted by all cannot be disputed. Consensus-based management has been further facilitated by members openly acknowledging the uniqueness of their collective situation, their common commitment to protecting ocean ecosystems and the productivity from them and accommodating the varying aspirations of their members for prosperity. Management plans that are evidence-based and species and situation specific have been the proven foundation of sound conservation and sustainable revenue generation. Gaining and maintaining the consensus support of both small developing Pacific Island states and the world's biggest distant water fishing nations in 50 million km 2 of the Pacific Ocean was initiated and maintained by the undisputed quality of relevant resource assessment science. The effectiveness of regional cooperation is seldom so pronounced.

Effective multi-national cooperation can commonly be elusive, particularly if scarce or fragile resources are shared by a large number of countries. Different countries may choose to exploit the same species at different stages of its lifecycle, or they may target different and competing predator and prey species in shared areas, creating different trophic-level interactions and outcomes. International cooperation can take time to germinate, but with the perseverance of members it can become progressively effective. The European Union's common fisheries policy provides a pertinent example. After a slow and problematic start, it is incrementally correcting overfishing. The contrast with the continuing difficulty of effectively addressing overfishing in the most intensely competitive areas in which the European Union is involved, such as the Mediterranean Sea, is telling. The prominence and persistence of the challenges in negotiating a fisheries agreement between the UK and the EU during Brexit negotiations is another reminder of the particular requirements for quality resource assessment science when addressing fisheries allocation and not merely conservation. Both examples provide testimony of the need for, but difficulty of, achieving consensus on how to manage 100% of the fished area of multiple species. Further examples of the individuality of the causes and circumstance of fisheries management problems are evident in North West Africa and parts of South East Asia where, for example, overfishing and IUU fishing remain of great concern (Hilborn et al ., 2020 ). Again, the lack of a detailed description of the problem, including quality scientific stock assessments, public identification of who is responsible, and precise assessment of the options for correcting it are at the fore.

Problems for the world's oceans that are global in both cause and effect, such as climate change, require truly global solutions. Other generic problems, such as pollution and overfishing, can, however, be widely spread in all oceans, but vary greatly in area and intensity. They are seldom amenable to global solutions. Most require actions that are specific for each threat in each nation or region. Many of the major threats to oceans, and most of those to coastal regions, are terrestrial in origin and have no ocean-based solution.

Unambiguous identification of the cause of each problem and precise tailoring of management action have too seldom been prerequisites for governments claiming they are providing adequate protection. Opportunities for sustainable development and prosperity based on well-managed use of oceanic resources have often been thwarted by hypothesized conservation and fisheries benefits from imprecise restrictions.

International cooperation has been greatly facilitated when shared science-based assessments have formed the foundation on which both conservation and development strategies are built. Consensus is more likely to be maintained when the quality of the assessment science that underpins action is acknowledged by all to be beyond reproach.

The intent of an international agreement to pursue a globally significant action plan for a sustainable ocean economy (HLOP) by first committing governments to increased responsibility for 100% of their own waters is welcomed: it is logical.

It is suggested that the Plan of Action for HLOP could be improved by more precision in how its goals are identified and pursued, and how success will be measured. Perhaps the alliteration in its current Vision could be extended to the “provision of precise protection against proven priority threats to sustainability, production and prosperity.”

Bob Kearney is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Canberra. He provides periodic advice on seafood sustainability issues to the Sydney Fish Market on a consultancy basis. Ray Hilborn is a Professor at the University of Washington. He receives research funding from many groups that have interests in fisheries outcomes including environmental NGOs, foundations, governments and fishing industry groups.

RK conceptualized the paper. Both authors outlined the paper and the main message. RK wrote the first draft and both authors revised the final draft.

No funding was received for this specific research.

No new data were generated or analysed in support of this research.

Dr Russell Reichelt, Australia's Sherpa on the International Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, proposed the development into a published paper of what were initially some discussion points on the Panel's strategy emailed to him in confidence by the authors. He also provided substantial comment on, and suggestions for additions to drafts of the paper. Bryan Skepper provided substantial assistance with evaluation of the role of Sydney Fish Market in promoting relevant research. He also provided valuable comment on drafts of this paper. Dr Peter Williams provided recent data and comments on assessments of Western and Central Pacific tuna fisheries. Dr Johann Bell provided constructive comments on drafts of this paper.

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Food & Water Stories

A Healthy Ocean Depends on Sustainably Managed Fisheries

TNC brings innovative solutions and science to global fisheries challenges, ensuring healthy marine and freshwater ecosystems and thriving communities

January 25, 2021

a group of fishers in small fishing boats on the water

Our Approach

Global impact.

The health of our ocean and inland waters and the livelihoods of millions of people all depend on well-managed fisheries. Fish and other seafood products provide vital nutrients for more than three billion people around the globe and supply an income for 10 to 12 percent of the world’s population. From small-scale mussel and sea urchin fisheries along the Humboldt Current in South America, to nearshore octopus fisheries in Kenya, to the freshwater fisheries of the U.S. Great Lakes and industrial tuna fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific—these diverse species are essential to healthy ecosystems and resilient communities.

But there is another side of the coin. Unsustainable fishing practices threaten ecosystem resilience by contributing to overfishing and habitat destruction, and fisheries mismanagement leads to an annual economic loss of approximately USD 80 billion globally. Adding to the challenge, climate change amplifies existing stressors to marine ecosystems.

We can still restore the health of our ocean and inland waters and protect sensitive species and habitats, but we must transform the way we interact with our ocean, lakes and rivers— and reforming fisheries management is perhaps the most impactful approach at our disposal.

Global Fisheries: Impact & Opportunity

Global wild capture fisheries reached 96.4M metric tons in 2018. No other global sector removes a comparable volume of wild animals from any natural habitat on earth.

An estimated USD 80 billion in annual net economic benefits could be generated if we manage our global fisheries better.

Fish and seafood are important for nutrition and provide about 3.3 billion people with almost 20 percent of their animal protein.

Fish and seafood products are some of the most globally traded items, with a total international export value of USD 164 billion in 2018.

Sustainable fisheries management is crucial to reduce the killing of thousands of species, such as turtles and sharks, that are caught or entangled each year.

Climate change is altering the productivity of fish species and habitats, creating challenges for ecosystems, communities and the seafood industry.

We depend on fishing and aquatic ecosystems for survival...Today those ecosystems are depending on us.

At The Nature Conservancy (TNC), we envision sustainable fisheries that result in stable supplies of seafood, thriving coastal communities, biodiversity conservation, and a healthy ocean, rivers and lakes. But there are barriers to achieving this vision—including lack of information about the health of fisheries and ecosystems, and limitations in capacity for implementing solutions. To overcome these barriers, we combine innovative technology and collaboration, helping us fill information gaps and design science, policy, and technology solutions that balance the needs of people and nature to ensure sustainable fisheries.

Our fisheries projects span more than 25 countries, impacting over 1,000 marine and freshwater species.

Highlights of our fisheries work around the world:

  • Engaging fishermen, the fishing industry, and seafood supply chains:  We work with diverse partners—coastal community members, the fishing industry, technology providers, seafood buyers, universities and local non-profit organizations—to solve fisheries challenges by bringing new models of collaboration.  [ jump to section ]
  • Building climate-ready fisheries:  Climate change dramatically  alters the distribution and health of important fish species and habitats  around the world, exacerbating existing threats such as overfishing. TNC is at the forefront of developing and implementing  climate-ready fisheries , leading with science and on-the-water demonstration projects to make adaptive and responsive decisions based on ocean conditions. [ jump to section ]
  • Focusing on forgotten fisheries: Small-scale fisheries and freshwater fisheries often receive little attention and fewer resources for science and management, creating capacity and data limitations that perpetuate overfishing and ecosystem degradation, which in turn places fishing-dependent livelihoods at risk. TNC teams are working to address challenges in data-limited fisheries by working directly with governments and fishing communities. [ jump to section ]
  • Putting science and technology to work for fisheries and a healthy ocean: Applying new technologies and best available science to our global fisheries could revolutionize how we manage our seafood supply and ensure a healthy ocean. Our team combines science with technologies, such as electronic monitoring (EM) and electronic reporting (ER), to collect cost-effective information that can quickly be used by both fishermen and managers to improve fisheries sustainability. [ jump to section ]

Global Representation of Fisheries Projects: Marine and Freshwater

global map with countries around the world highlighted in blue that represent where TNC has active fisheries projects

Engaging fishermen, the fishing industry, and seafood supply chains 

Our fisheries projects around the world are underpinned by a close collaboration with those that depend on fishing for their livelihoods.

In Kenya, Tanzania, Peru, Chile, Melanesia and Micronesia, we partner with local and indigenous fishing communities to support community-based conservation efforts that have allowed local leaders to sustainably manage fisheries. For example, our work with the Pate Marine Community Conservancy in   Lamu County, Kenya ,  focuses on community-designed solutions such as seasonal closures, no-take zones, and fishing gear restrictions, as well as monitoring and surveillance activities. These activities have enabled women fishers and community leaders to increase their harvest of octopus and negotiate a better price for their catch, while also allowing habitats and species to recover.

In North America, from the Southeast to the mid-Atlantic , and the West Coast and Alaska, we engage with both commercial and recreational  fishing sectors to co-develop solutions that have a triple bottom line—sustainable supplies of fish, stability and better prices for fishermen, and ecosystem protection and recovery. For example, in Alaska, we worked with a local fishing organization to launch a fisheries fund that incentivizes ocean conservation and increases fishery policy leadership by supporting the next generation of fishermen in purchasing fishing privileges. In the U.S. West Coast Groundfish fishery, we supported the development of the  California Groundfish Collective (CGC) —an organized group of fishermen that create risk-based spatial fishing plans and share information to reduce the catch of vulnerable species, supporting fishery rebuilding efforts.

A humpback whale

In addition to working directly with fishermen, we collaborate with seafood buyers and other supply chain actors to incentivize sustainable, science-based practices. In Indonesia, where some species of the deep water snapper and grouper fishery are at risk from overfishing, we are spearheading an effort to secure commitments from seafood buyers to only purchase fish that exceed a minimum size for each at-risk species. Similarly, our work with Bahamian fishermen and the Bahamas Marine Exporters Association led to the first-ever Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification in the Northern Caribbean region for spiny lobster, a global recognition of sustainability.

Our global reach allows us to leverage solutions between projects, accelerating adoption of best fishing practices, while promoting international collaboration and improving fisheries sustainability worldwide. This is as important in coastal communities in Africa or Latin America as it is in the U.S., where over 80 percent of the seafood consumed is imported—often from countries with bycatch rates of vulnerable species up to 19 times higher. Our work in California to tag swordfish and use findings to deploy low-bycatch gear to reduce impact of fishing to wildlife like sea turtles, dolphins and whales is now being applied to Chile and Peru. This is just one example of how working with fishermen, scientists and governments across borders can ensure a sustainable supply of fish for consumers and healthy habitats and species at scale.

Bryan Bichrest throws a pollack into a fish bin on board his boat.

Building climate-ready fisheries

Fishing communities are experiencing the effects of climate change firsthand through shifts in temperature, acidification, deoxygenation and changes in fish stock distribution.

In New England, where the ocean is changing faster than 99 percent of the world’s ocean, warming temperatures are causing commercially important fish species to shift their ranges, presenting challenges such as difficulty in reaching new fishing grounds. On the West Coast, meanwhile, there have been record numbers of whale entanglements in crab fishing gear as whales change their historic distribution to follow their prey, influenced by changing ocean conditions. Our team is  building climate-ready solutions  by working with fishermen, agencies and other stakeholders to improve whale location predictions and their overlap with fishing season timing and using this information to track risks in near real time.

Quote : Chris McGuire, Marine Program Director,

We are well positioned to work collaboratively to solve problems that are facing both fishermen and our ocean.

Chris McGuire, Marine Program Director,

  We also work closely with government agencies responsible for managing fisheries to implement adaptive actions in response to climate change impacts. In Mexico, we actively lead a fisheries capacity-building program that has supported fishery scientists and managers in developing climate-ready fisheries management plans. And in collaboration with the U.S. Pacific Fishery Management Council, our team has been leading an initiative that utilizes scenario planning to better understand plausible future scenarios of ecological and socio-economic change.

Focusing on forgotten fisheries

With small-scale fisheries employing more than 90 percent of the 35 million people recorded globally as fishermen and women, addressing the challenges in small-scale and data-limited fisheries is essential for providing local communities with a sustainable source of income and food.

Quote : Carmen Revenga

tourism board goes fishing for local solution

The FishPath process takes a holistic view and builds a tailored approach for each fishery.

Carmen Revenga

A key element of TNC’s work is our  FishPath program , an approach to setting fisheries on a path to sustainability by engaging with local stakeholders to develop tailored solutions. The FishPath process combines an online decision-support tool with trainings to empower local stakeholders to design and implement science-based fisheries management.

To date, FishPath has been applied across a range of geographies—from coastal finfish in Peru and Chile, to reef fish in Hawaii, to queen conch in The Bahamas and spiny lobster in Kenya. Our work has already resulted in several successful projects, and we are continuing to expand to additional coastal fisheries in need of improved, sustainable management through the growing  FishPath Network . 

For example, in Peru, we worked with government agencies and fishing communities to support creation of a national-level annual closure for an important but declining coastal finfish fishery called chita, and we collaborated with community members in Ancón to strengthen capacity for implementing science-based data collection protocols. In northern and central Chile, where coastal finfish are largely unregulated across the entire kelp forest ecosystem, we are leading a FishPath process to develop regulations for a suite of 15 species that support both sensitive coastal habitat conservation and fishery sustainability.

In Africa, we are supporting coastal villages in Kenya and in Lake Tanganyika (Tanzania) to enact and enforce their own sustainable fishing regulations, such as outlawing destructive fishing nets, and protecting fish breeding and nursery zones. In Lake Tanganyika, we are combining this fisheries work with microfinance opportunities in support of income diversification, with education programs and reproductive health initiatives for local women. On the other side of the globe in the U.S. Great Lakes , we are working to identify, protect and restore enough spawning habitat so that populations of whitefish, cisco and lake trout are rebuilt for the benefit of healthy Great Lakes, their fisheries, and their communities.

Putting science and technology to work for fisheries and a healthy ocean


For many fisheries, we don’t always have accurate information about what is being caught, where it is caught, and how it is caught. That’s why TNC is working to fill critical data gaps and improve fishery transparency through  electronic monitoring, electronic reporting, and other technological advances that capture key fishing data .

For example, we are advancing electronic monitoring solutions that use cameras and sensors onboard fishing vessels to automatically capture key fishing activity information. Electronic monitoring can provide detailed, verifiable data on scientific information (e.g., size and number of catch), compliance (e.g., sharks finned, pollution thrown overboard), and labor conditions (e.g., unsafe working conditions). This technology can also give consumers confidence when purchasing seafood labeled as “sustainably harvested” that the product is traceable from bait to plate.

TNC is leading global implementation of electronic monitoring in 16 countries across an area of more than 30 million square kilometers, within Chile, New Zealand, Parties of the Nauru Agreement, Peru, Seychelles and the United States. In the rich waters of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, where 60 percent of the world’s tuna is harvested, we are  demonstrating that this technology can guide policy, spur innovation  to reduce costs, and catalyze market growth that will optimize ocean health.

Quote : Mark Zimring

It’s often hard to see what’s happening in large-scale, offshore fisheries, but new technologies help us better understand and better manage them—good for both nature and people.

Mark Zimring

Frozen yellowfin tuna

In addition to taking electronic monitoring to scale,  we also apply new science and technologies in other critical areas of fisheries management. Many fisheries rely on paper-based methods, creating lags between data collection and management actions. Harnessing recent advances in machine learning and fisheries assessment science, we developed  Poseidon–a software tool that allows users to photograph captured species and generate valuable length measurements.

We share and apply our science and technologies across different geographies. Exchanging science between The Bahamas and Belize , our teams brought lessons about Queen Conch biology and maturity from Belize’s Queen Conch fishery to Bahamian Conch fishermen. Similarly, we are also facilitating knowledge  exchanges between fishermen from Puerto Rico and Chile  to learn how digital reporting of fish catches supports more sustainable fisheries. Overall, our international reach allows for fisheries innovations to scale and expand, supporting a healthy global ocean.

Want to learn more or connect with us? Contact [email protected] .

Related reading.

Photo of commercial fisherman Kurt Martin on his boat docked in Massachusetts.

Climate-Ready Fisheries Can Restore Ocean Health

Explore how fisheries staff at The Nature Conservancy are using science and collaborative projects to ensure healthy oceans and climate-ready fisheries in North America and around the world.

in the early morning light, Ancón, Peru.

Sustainable Fishing in Peru

The Nature Conservancy is reforming the artisanal fishing sector and the management of other small-scale artisanal fisheries in Peru.

Ancon on the coast of central Peru has agreed to adopt science-based measures that have led to better catches.

FishPath is an engagement process and online decision-making application that the Conservancy and partners have developed to help select the best options for assessing and managing for any fishery in the world.

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Book cover

YOUMARES 9 - The Oceans: Our Research, Our Future pp 243–260 Cite as

Fisheries and Tourism: Social, Economic, and Ecological Trade-offs in Coral Reef Systems

  • Liam Lachs 4 , 5 , 6 &
  • Javier Oñate-Casado 6 , 7 , 8  
  • Open Access
  • First Online: 15 October 2019

22k Accesses

13 Citations

96 Altmetric

Coastal communities are exerting increasingly more pressure on coral reef ecosystem services in the Anthropocene. Balancing trade-offs between local economic demands, preservation of traditional values, and maintenance of both biodiversity and ecosystem resilience is a challenge for reef managers and resource users. Consistently, growing reef tourism sectors offer more lucrative livelihoods than subsistence and artisanal fisheries at the cost of traditional heritage loss and ecological damage. Using a systematic review of coral reef fishery reconstructions since the 1940s, we show that declining trends in fisheries catch and fish stocks dominate coral reef fisheries globally, due in part to overfishing of schooling and spawning-aggregating fish stocks vulnerable to exploitation. Using a separate systematic review of coral reef tourism studies since 2013, we identify socio-ecological impacts and economic opportunities associated to the industry. Fisheries and tourism have the potential to threaten the ecological stability of coral reefs, resulting in phase shifts toward less productive coral-depleted ecosystem states. We consider whether four common management strategies (unmanaged commons, ecosystem-based management, co-management, and adaptive co-management) fulfil ecological conservation and socioeconomic goals, such as living wage, job security, and maintenance of cultural traditions. Strategies to enforce resource exclusion and withhold traditional resource rights risk social unrest; thus, the coexistence of fisheries and tourism industries is essential. The purpose of this chapter is to assist managers and scientists in their responsibility to devise implementable strategies that protect local community livelihoods and the coral reefs on which they rely.

  • Sustainable development
  • Adaptive co-management
  • Systematic review
  • Ecological impacts
  • Economic shift

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13.1 Context

Coral reef ecosystems are considered one of the most productive and economically valuable ecosystems on Earth, providing habitat for a highly diverse species assemblage (Roberts et al. 2002 ). Various global and local stressors threaten coral reefs, from global warming-induced heat stress to tourism- and fisheries-induced ecological stresses. The result of overuse and overexploitation by either of these industries can be disastrous for the reef ecosystem (Hodgson and Dixon 1988 ; Hawkins and Roberts 1994 ; Cesar et al. 2003 ; Fenner 2012 ; Jackson et al. 2014 ; Gil et al. 2015 ). While both industries present economic opportunities necessary for coastal communities in the vicinity of coral reefs (Cesar et al. 2003 ), they often compete for the same operational spaces (Fabinyi 2008 ). This review draws on the history of tourism and fisheries industries from around the world to answer questions about how best to manage these growing industries in the future. We unravel the different ecological threats posed by fisheries and tourism and discuss the trade-offs managers make to minimize coral reef degradation. Considering the benefits and pitfalls of various management strategies, we compare the social, ecological, and economic trade-offs that coral reef stakeholders must make to successfully tread the path of sustainable socioeconomic development. We also highlight various tools available for the benefit of local communities in coral reef systems.

Although we do not consider the effects of global change on coral reef social-ecological systems in this review, it is important to frame our discussion and management recommendations on the backdrop of a changing world. Coral bleaching occurs when excessively high water temperatures invoke decoupling of coral host tissue and symbiotic algal zooxanthellae (Bessell-Browne et al. 2014 ). With a reduced metabolism, bleached corals have higher probabilities of falling victim to starvation, disease, predation, or competition (Bellwood et al. 2006 ). Mass bleaching events occurred around the world in 1998, 2002, 2010, and 2016, whilst individual coral reefs are experiencing ever more frequent bleaching events (Heron et al. 2016 ). During the 2016 bleaching event in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), less than 8.9% of reefs escaped without bleaching, compared to 42.4% in 2002 and 44.7% in 1998 (Hughes et al. 2017 ). Similarly, coral reefs in the Maldives bleached extensively in 2016, with live coral cover dropping below 6% in the southern Maldivian reefs (Perry and Morgan 2017 ). Mass coral bleaching has the potential to wipe out wide swathes of coral reefs, transitioning the ecosystem toward degraded states (Fig. 13.1 ) with detrimental impacts to global biodiversity and both coastal tourism and fisheries economies. Therefore, we must frame our arguments on the trade-offs between fisheries and tourism against a backdrop of unprecedented global change and the worst-case scenario.

figure 1

Effects of the 2016 mass coral bleaching event in the central Maldives shown by the transition from healthy pre-bleaching coral reefs in the beginning of March ( a ) to a bleached coral state in the end of March ( b ) at a reef crest in eastern Baa Atoll and finally to a post-bleaching macroalgal colonization at a propagation project on the reef flat of the nearby North Male Atoll ( c ). Photo credit: Stephen Bergacker

13.2 Ecosystem Services

As the most biodiverse of marine habitats, coral reefs provide a wide range of ecosystem services, from fisheries and recreation/tourism to coastal protection and potential medical innovation, which in turn drive the social, ecological, and economic trade-offs discussed in this chapter. Coral reef fisheries provide a key source of income and livelihood to coastal communities, are a non-substitutable source of protein for many island populations (Laurans et al. 2013 ), and are key to culturally significant local traditions (McClanahan 1999 ; Bruggemann et al. 2012 ; Fenner 2012 ). Growing tourism industries, based on recreational activities such as snorkeling, diving, whale watching, and recreational fishing (Asafu-Adjaye and Tapsuwan 2008 ; Young et al. 2015 ; Chen et al. 2016a ) require different skill sets than traditional livelihoods and offer alternative income to coastal communities (Hicks et al. 2013 ; Harvey and Naval 2016 ; Outra et al. 2016 ). The structure of carbonate reefs directly protects coastal areas, especially in tsunami- and storm-prone tropical regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans (Ferrario et al. 2014 ), and indirectly protects these areas through supply of carbonate sand to beaches and mangrove ecosystems (Wells et al. 2006 ). Coral reef biodiversity, from coral and algae to cone shells and sponges, provide many novel compounds useful to medical science including painkillers and antiviral, antimicrobial, and anticancer drugs (Kelman et al. 2001 ; Knowlton et al. 2010 ).

Valuing coral reef ecosystem services in a monetary way can be a useful tool to aid public decision-making. While valuation methods provide wildly different results (Cesar et al. 2003 ; Brander et al. 2007 ; Craig 2008 ; Laurans et al. 2013 ), using standardized methods, Cesar et al. ( 2003 ) have provided insight on the relative importance of four major ecosystem services (biodiversity maintenance, coastal protection, tourism, and fisheries) which were estimated to be worth US$ 30 billion in net benefits in goods and services to world economies annually. The annual value of coastal protection from surging oceans (i.e. the cost of rebuilding if the protective function was lost) has been estimated at US$ 9 billion (Cesar et al. 2003 ). Reef biodiversity, through research, conservation, and medical value, was estimated at US$ 5.5 billion. Tourism was valued at US$ 9.6 billion, almost twice the estimated value of reef fisheries (US$ 5 billion) (Cesar et al. 2003 ), a finding also reflected by other valuation studies (Van Beukering et al. 2006 ; Craig 2008 ). For example, the US Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP) indicates higher value of tourism over fisheries on non-coral reef industries, US$ 60 to 31 million, respectively (Craig 2008 ; Spalding et al. 2017 ). Given the high growth of the coral reef tourism sector (Outra et al. 2016 ; Harvey and Naval 2016 ) that we detail further on in this chapter, new opportunities offered by tourism are underpinned by social, economic, and ecological trade-offs for scientists, managers, and fishers alike (Hicks et al. 2013 ).

13.3 Impacts and Trends of Fisheries and Tourism

13.3.1 impacts of fisheries.

Although coral reef fisheries are a major source of local income and are socially and economically integral to coastal communities (McClanahan 1999 ; Cesar et al. 2003 ; Bruggemann et al. 2012 ; Fenner 2012 ), overfishing and destructive reef fisheries can jeopardize fish resources (Cesar et al. 2003 ; Fox 2004 ) and the resilience of entire reef ecosystems (Mumby et al. 2006 ; Fenner 2012 ; Bozec et al. 2016 ). Coral and their larvae, the seed stock of future coral reefs, can be outcompeted by macroalgae for space (Smith et al. 1981 ; Hunter and Evans 1995 ; Mumby et al. 2007 ; Doropoulos et al. 2017 ). Hence, overfishing of key functional groups of reef organisms such as herbivorous fish can reduce grazing pressure on macroalgae, promoting phase shifts toward less productive coral-depleted ecosystem states (Mumby et al. 2016 ; Doropoulos et al. 2017 ). Overfishing of top predators can induce trophic cascades that also the coral reef ecosystem (Mumby et al. 2006 ). A study across the Northern Line Islands by Sandin et al. ( 2008 ) characterizes the systemic ecological effects of fishing on coral reefs. At Palmyra and Kingsman, uninhabited atolls where fishing pressure is low, top predators dominate the fish assemblage, the fish biomass pyramid is inverted, and coral coverage is very high. Conversely, at inhabited atolls Tabuaeran and Kiritimati where fishing pressure is high, there are far fewer large long-lived fish, a bottom-heavy food web, greater prevalence of coral disease, less coral recruitment, and generally more degraded reefs with higher algal overgrowth (Fig. 13.2 ) and lower coral coverage. Degraded overfished reefs are less productive for local fisheries causing conflicts for ever-limited resources (Bruggemann et al. 2012 ).

figure 2

General fore reef habitats with characteristic fish communities (top row: a , c , e ) and representative 0.5 m 2 photos of the reef substrate (bottom row: b , d , e ) at Kingsman ( a , b ), Tabuaeran ( c , d ), and Kiritimati ( e , f ), Northern Line Islands, showing a degradation gradient – from reefs with numerous top predators and high coral coverage to reefs with few large predators, only small herbivorous fish, and dominated by fleshy macroalgae in place of coral. (Adapted from Sandin et al. ( 2008 ) with permission from PLoS One)

To understand long-term overfishing trends that underpin trade-offs affecting coral reef fishers, we conducted a systematic literature review in Web of Science® using the following study topic search string: (“coral reef” or “coral reefs”) and (“fisheries” or “fishery” or “fishing”) and (“historic” or “reconstruction” or “reconstruct”). Of the 250 results, 12 studies met our two relevance criteria, namely, a main focus on coral reef fisheries and a reconstruction period <25 years. A key reconstruction by Zeller et al. ( 2015 ) that did not show in the search results was also included for this review.

As many coral reef fisheries lack historic data on catch size, catch composition, fishing gear use or catch per unit effort (CPUE) (Sadovy de Mitcheson et al. 2008 ) alternative methods for estimating fisheries trends are useful. Traditional ecological knowledge of fishing communities can be used to understand prominent ecological changes (Lavides et al. 2010 ), but such assessments are limited to the period of living memory, approximately 50 years pre-publication (Golden et al. 2014 ). By combining anecdotal evidence from semi-structured interviews with available fisheries catch or human population data we can gain insight into temporal trends in fish biomass, catch size and composition, extinction date or CPUE (Hardt 2008 ; Claro et al. 2009 ; Lavides et al. 2010 ; Young et al. 2015 ; Samoilys et al. 2017 ). As shown in the schematic timeline (Table 13.1 ), the 1950s–1970s was a period characterized by high yields of large reef fish such as the herbivorous green bumphead parrotfish ( Bolbometopon muricatum ) (Lavides et al. 2016 ). By the 1980s–2000s, large schooling or spawning fish began to be replaced by small reef fish and invertebrates (Sadovy de Mitcheson et al. 2008 ). Anecdotal Reconstructions

Due to observer bias, using semiquantitative anecdotal evidence for fisheries reconstructions is less reliable than using landing data. Golden et al. ( 2014 ) reported on changes to ecosystem dynamics and fish catch based on 22 semi-structured interviews and a spearfishing survey. Only 11% of the recorded fish community composition was shared by both survey methods, and only three out of 14 species declines were reported by more than one respondent. The other 78% of species declines were reported by no more than one out of 22 respondents (4.5%). Hence, these results may be heavily biased by individual experience or change in attitude, and thus should be interpreted with caution. A larger interview study by Lavides et al. ( 2010 ) (n = 232) reported a similar proportion of rare species declines (82%), also reported by less than 4.5% of the sample size (<11 reports). These studies exemplify the difficulty in detecting subtle ecological changes with nonquantitative or semiquantitative methodological techniques.

Fisheries reconstructions based on anecdotal evidence can be useful in identifying larger ecological perturbations and trends (Sadovy de Mitcheson et al. 2008 ; Lavides et al. 2016 ). Larger-scale dynamics are more likely to be detected by many people, increasing congruence between respondents. Lavides et al. ( 2016 ) identified declining trends in mean perceived CPUE for five species of reef fish, including the green bumphead parrotfish ( B. muricatum ) which declined 88% compared to 1950s’ levels. As the largest of its kind, this widespread schooling fish was probably fished before the 1950s and is particularly vulnerable to heavy fishing with widespread declines in their once-common populations (Dulvy et al. 2004 ). Spawning aggregations for most reef fish occur in a short breeding season of up to 3 months making them highly vulnerable to fishing pressure. Through interview techniques Sadovy de Mitcheson et al. ( 2008 ) identified that most reef fish spawning aggregations in the Indo-Pacific and West Atlantic are in decline, with increasing aggregations only occurring where effective management strategies are in place. Quantitative Reconstructions

Fisheries reconstructions using quantitative data mining of catch data provide more detailed information than those using anecdotal evidence; however, the spatial and temporal availability of catch data is predominantly limited to the most commonly fished areas in more recent times (Pauly 1995 ; Cheung and Sadovy 2004 ). Declines in reef fisheries since the 1950s are commonplace (Claro et al. 2009 ; Lachica-Alino et al. 2009 ; Weijerman et al. 2016 ); however more complex population dynamics between different groups of reef organisms obscure these net trends. In the Philippines, overfishing from trawl fisheries is shown to have reduced large high-value fish stocks. The concurrent effects to the food web structure of this marine system have resulted in increased biomass of small reef carnivores and cephalopods (Lachica-Alino et al. 2009 ). Similar results for Hong Kong were shown by Cheung and Sadovy ( 2004 ), where large fish species become replaced by small fish species and invertebrates. Bottom trawling fisheries will avoid reef areas as the nets, which are very expensive, can catch and tear on these hard substrates. In Guam, although there was a small increase in annual catch caused by successful spear fisheries in the late 1990s, the average catch from shore fisheries declined from 100 T year −1 in 1985–1990 to 37 T year −1 in 2007–2012. This was consistent with non-fisheries surveys which also show depleted shallow reef populations (Weijerman et al. 2016 ). Landings data allowed high-resolution assessments of six commercial reef fish in Cuba from 1955 to 2005. While four snapper species underwent no net change in catch biomass, Nassau grouper ( Epinephelus striatus ) and lane snapper ( Lutjanus synagris ) both experienced large declines in average catch over the 50-year study period: 1600 and 800 MT year −1 to less than 100 and 450 MT year −1 , respectively. In the early 1960s there were sharp increases in catch biomass for all commercial species mainly driven by the development of bottom trawl and fish trap fisheries (Claro et al. 2009 ). Coral reef fish population trends vary depending on a balance between biological life cycles and fishing gear and effort. Generally, schooling species such as green bumphead parrotfish and lane snapper or spawning species such as Nassau grouper are much more vulnerable to overfishing than cryptic reef organisms more inaccessible to fishers such as moray eel (Muraenidae) or octopus (Octopoda).

While large-scale studies are useful, they can often lose fine-scale resolution. A recent study on national catch reconstructions in 25 Pacific island nations and territories showed increasing fishing trends throughout the Pacific from 1950 to 2010 (Zeller et al. 2015 ), while a reconstruction of Hawaiian and Florida Keys fisheries showed similar increasing trends (Table 13.1 ) (McClenachan and Kittinger 2013 ). The growth of huge pelagic fisheries over the last century masks the relatively smaller coral reef fishery declines reported in this synthesis. Historic reef fish declines reported by Hardt ( 2008 ) who focussed solely on reef fisheries was lost in the large-scale studies by Zeller et al. ( 2015 ) and McClenachan and Kittinger ( 2013 ). In summary, coral reef fish declines are not ubiquitous but are the dominant global trend. Appropriate fisheries reconstructions using quantitative data mining rather than anecdotal evidence are useful for improving global fisheries catch datasets and hence inform fishing communities and governments on long-term trends lost in official records (Zeller et al. 2015 ). Economic pressures associated with such declining reef fisheries can influence the trade-offs fishers make when considering alternate sources of income such as tourism.

13.3.2 Tourism Trends

Alongside fisheries declines and global population rise, the last half century has been characterized by the technical revolution with huge advances in transportation efficiency and cost, allowing economic shifts toward a globally multimillion-dollar tourism industry (Craig 2008 ; Spalding et al. 2017 ). The number of visitors to Asia has increased more than 60% in the last 15 years with growth expected to reach 75% in the next decade (Outra et al. 2016 ). Of all global regions, the Asia-Pacific is experiencing the fastest growth in international tourism, closely followed by the Americas (Harvey and Naval 2016 ). This growth trend has been mirrored by the scuba diving industry which was once the fastest-growing recreational activity in the world (Tabata 1992 ), characterized by huge increases in the number of certified scuba divers since the 1970s (Fig. 13.3 ).

figure 3

Number of PADI diving certifications obtained worldwide from 1970 to 2011. (Adapted from PADI global certification and membership statistics ( http://www.padi.co.kr/images/Statistics-Kor.pdf accessed 21/05/2018) with permission from PADI Worldwide)

To understand the recent opportunities and impacts of coral reef tourism relevant to trade-offs made by coral reef resource users, we conducted a systematic literature search in Web of Science® targeting all studies on coral reefs since 2013. The search string combined the following three categories with and operators: (1) coral reef synonyms (“coral reefs” or “coral reef”), (2) current topics in coral reef ecology (“ecotourism” or “tourism” or “social ecological system” or “ecosystem-based management” or “ecosystem management” or “connectivity” or “replantation” or “keystone species” or “flagship species” or “invasive species” or “global warming” or “ocean acidification” or “climate change” or “fisheries”), and (3) a comprehensive list of coastal tropical countries from the United Nations ( 2018 ) and overseas territories from nationsonline.org , separated by or operators.

Based on the title and abstract, the 1043 search results were categorized by relevance to coral reefs, relevance to tourism, study country, and theme of main impact. Therefore, the resultant dataset of 36 tourism-related studies is a randomly sampled, spatially explicit representative of current research on coral reef tourism. This database was characterized by four major impact topics, referred to throughout this chapter and shown in Fig. 13.4 alongside the proportion of studies focused on scuba-diving compared to other tourism related topics. Socioeconomic and environmental impacts of tourism are discussed in this section, while socio-ecological and social perceptions and preferences are discussed in the next section.

figure 4

From systematic review, a representative overview of 36 coral reef tourism studies since 2013, under four major impacts, and several sub-topics. Pie charts show the proportion of studies within each sub-topic relevant to diving (black), with diving-related studies marked (∗) in the references of this figure Economic Impacts

Reef tourism provides major employment to coastal communities (Murray 2007 ; Lopes et al. 2015 ). The success of this industry rests on its high economic value (Cesar et al. 2003 ; Craig 2008 ), contributed to by on-reef tourism activities including diving, snorkeling, and glass-bottom boating, as well as reef-adjacent tourism attractions such as seafood, scenery, and beaches (Spalding et al. 2017 ). An extensive meta-analysis of 166 reef valuation studies from the 1980s until 2007 revealed that the combination of diving, viewing, and snorkeling had the highest mean value (approx. US$ 300), followed by diving alone (approx. US$ 200), compared to snorkeling which was valued at less than 15% of mean diving value (Fig. 13.5b , Brander et al. 2007 ). Diving and scenery are some of the most important activities for coral reef tourism (Hsui and Wang 2013 ). Brander et al. ( 2007 ) also showed that the economic value of coral reefs varies by global region (Fig. 13.5a ). Coral reefs were valued highly across all global regions except the United States, with high median valuations for Australia and East Africa but lower median valuations for Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. As shown in our systematic review, the majority of coral reef tourism publications in the last 5 years have been conducted in the West Atlantic (Caribbean), Southeast Asia, and the Pacific (Fig. 13.5c ), regions that have also undergone the largest growth in reef tourism over the past two decades (Harvey and Naval 2016 ; Outra et al. 2016 ). Therefore, as a growing industry in these regions, tourism may provide lucrative opportunities causing trade-offs for fishers and other employment sectors.

figure 5

Coral reef valuations from the 1980s until 2007 by ( a ) global region and ( b ) recreational activity, showing mean and median value (bar and dot) with standard error bars (Brander et al. 2007 ). For comparison, the proportion of reef tourism studies published since 2013, derived from our systematic review dataset (n = 36), are shown for each global region ( c ). Sample size of each region/activity is shown in brackets. Regional labels differ between by our systematic review and Brander et al. ( 2007 ): Australia within Oceania, East Africa within Indian Ocean, US split between Hawaii in Pacific and Florida Keys in West Atlantic, Caribbean within West Atlantic. (Adapted from Brander et al. ( 2007 ) with permission from Elsevier) Environmental Impacts

Employee livelihoods are often heavily reliant on reef tourism and its ability to attract tourists to healthy coral reefs (Hunter et al. 2018 ). However, tourism-related threats such as enhanced sedimentation from changes in land use, loss of habitat due to land reclamation, expulsion of sewage and solid waste, and overuse by snorkelers and divers (Fig. 13.4 ) can contribute to reduced ecosystem resilience or phase shifts away from coral-dominated ecosystem states (Hawkins and Roberts 1994 ; Redding et al. 2013 ; Lamb et al. 2014 ; Renfro and Chadwick 2017 ), thereby jeopardizing tourism-based livelihoods (Smith et al. 1981 ).

Corals are controlled on a large scale by sedimentation. In areas further away from sources of runoff, with lower concentrations of sediment in overlying waters, reefs are generally more diverse, are better developed, and have higher framework accretion rates (Rogers 1990 ). Coral responses to moderate sedimentation include synchronous polyp pulsations, cleaning with tentacles or cilia, and concentration and excretion of sediment in mucus (Hubbard and Pocock 1972 ; Lirman and Manzello 2009 ), while complete covering by sediment leads to coral death within hours (Mayer 1918 ; Rogers 1990 ; Hunte and Wittenberg 1992 ). Phase shift theory suggests that the tipping point moving away from the coral-dominated state is not the same as the threshold on the return succession (Hughes et al. 2010 ). Therefore, fully degraded coral-dominated reefs can fail to recover even at much lower levels of sedimentation, due to repressed recruitment of sensitive juvenile corals (Hughes et al. 2010 ; Doropoulos et al. 2016 ). Enhanced sedimentation from tourism development has already caused substantial degradation of inshore reefs in the Egyptian Red Sea (Hawkins and Roberts 1994 ).

Discharge of untreated or partially treated effluent is a higher priority threat to coral reefs, with the potential to decrease coral coverage and promote overgrowth of other spatial benthic competitors such as macroalgae (Johannes 1975 ; Lapointe et al. 2005 ; Gil et al. 2015 ) or Zoantharia, soft-bodied benthic Cnidaria (Hunter and Evans 1995 ; Smith et al. 1981 ; Lapointe et al. 2010 ; Hernández-Delgado et al. 2008 ; Acosta et al. 2001 ; Lachs unpublished data). Field experiments and surveys show that nutrient enrichment and sewage pollution can jeopardize coral reef resilience by increasing the severity of diseases such as aspergillosis or yellow-band disease in common gorgonian sea fans ( Gorgonia ventalina ) and reef-building corals ( Montastraea sp. and Porites sp.) (Bruno et al. 2003 ; Baker et al. 2007 ; Redding et al. 2013 ). Results of coral damage, disease advancement, and coral tissue loss (Fig. 13.6 ) are consistent from the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans. In Guam, the highest sewage signals were consistently measured at Tumon Bay which is the center of tourism, showing the specific risks of tourism-derived sewage on coral reef ecosystems (Redding et al. 2013 ). Given the global rise in population and tourism intensity, ecological impacts from sewage release should be closely monitored and considered by coral reef managers.

figure 6

Effect of experimental nutrient enrichment on ( a ) front advancement of yellow band disease and ( b ) coral tissue loss in the Caribbean reef building corals Montastraea annularis (white bars) and Montastraea franksii (black bars) during a 90-day in situ experiment (mean ± standard error). (Adapted from Bruno et al. ( 2003 ), with permission from John Wiley and Sons)

13.4 Sector Overlap and Trade-Offs

Managers and conservationists should consider the ecological trade-offs between tourism and fisheries industries. Overuse through heavy fishing, land-use change, or poor waste management can all lead to coral reef degradation, phase shifts, and even reef fishery collapse (Hawkins and Roberts 1994 ; Cesar et al. 2003 ; Mumby et al. 2006 ; Fenner 2012 ; Redding et al. 2013 ; Lamb et al. 2014 ; Bozec et al. 2016 ; Renfro and Chadwick 2017 ). While balancing the ecological trade-offs between coral reef fisheries and tourism, management strategies must also align with the social and economic interests of workers. Between industries, these interests are often in opposition, with regular disputes over spatial planning and zonation rights, varying education/skill set requirements and levels of salary/job security, and different world views and ecosystem service priorities (Brown et al. 1997 ; Fabinyi 2008 ; Hicks et al. 2013 ; Nejati et al. 2014 ; Lopes et al. 2015 ; de Andrade and de Oliveira Soares 2017 ; Hunter et al. 2018 ).

13.4.1 Zoning Issues

Inevitably, fishers and dive/snorkel tourism operators both need to work at coral reef sites. However, they cannot work alongside each other for obvious reasons. There is a potential gap in our current understanding of the perceptions of dive operators and fishers on the coexistence of their activities (Barker and Roberts 2004 ). Several recent studies agree that the motivations and principles of fishers and dive operators are distant, partially due to different educational backgrounds and ecosystem service priorities (Satria et al. 2004 ; Fabinyi 2008 ; de Andrade and de Oliveira Soares 2017 ). Despite this, both stakeholders agree on the importance of establishing marine protected areas (MPAs) (Fabinyi 2008 ; de Andrade and de Oliveira Soares 2017 ). Conflicts among these two sectors have been reported from developing countries such as Kenya and the Philippines (Hodgson and Dixon 1988 ; Samoilys et al. 2017 ). Divers and fishers repeatedly compete for space and resources in locations where zoning rules are not well established (Fabinyi 2008 ; de Andrade and de Oliveira Soares 2017 ), resulting in both parties blaming each other for negative ecosystem impacts in these areas. One hand, many large resort operators have conservation-oriented perceptions (Hein et al. 2018 ), promoting the protection of coral reefs to maintain the high biodiversity that attracts tourists, allowing them to enjoy greater underwater experiences. On the other hand, fishers defend all ecosystem services that involve exploitation opportunities and support their livelihood (Fabinyi 2008 ; de Andrade and de Oliveira Soares 2017 ), especially those related to food security (Fisher et al. 2014 ). Accordingly, the role of MPAs in coral reef ecosystems may be less effective than they are designed to be. Fragile government regulations demonstrate that certain MPAs only exist on paper, enhancing zonation conflicts between tourism and traditional fishers (Satria et al. 2004 ).

13.4.2 Livelihoods

Despite the conflicts between tourism and fisheries industries, their coexistence is a persistent component of coral reef socioeconomic systems. As a seasonal industry, tourism cannot provide year-round employment, bringing with it a suite of social and economic challenges (Brown et al. 1997 ). Fisheries can provide an alternative livelihood in the tourist low season, causing a bidirectional flow of workers between both industries with seasonal cycles. However, the long term fisheries are relying on ever-dwindling fish stocks (Bruggemann et al. 2012 ; Zeller et al. 2015 ), influencing a residual flow of workers from fisheries to tourism where opportunities are more plentiful (Yacob et al. 2007 ). For instance, skippers can renovate and adapt their fishing boats to accommodate tourists or divers instead. Workers often transition from traditional livelihoods to tourism-based employment due to better wages and job security (Murray 2007 ; Lopes et al. 2015 ). Employee wages are consistently higher within the tourism industry than in fisheries (Nejati et al. 2014 ; Lopes et al. 2015 ; Hunter et al. 2018 ). For instance, in Malaysia, the employment of the local population on Redang Island is quite equally divided between tourism (50%) and fisheries (45%) (Nejati et al. 2014 ), but the difference in monthly income is heavily in favor of tourism (MYR 500–700 or US$ 106–149) over fisheries (MYR 350–450 or US$ 74–96) (Yacob et al. 2007 ) (Table 13.2 describes currency conversion methods). Tourism can provide higher wages up to double or triple that of fisheries in some regions (Lopes et al. 2015 ; Hunter et al. 2018 ).

13.4.3 Ecosystem Service Priorities

Fishers, tourism operators, scientists, and conservationists inherently value ecosystem services differently; however, there is an overlap in their priorities. Using a combination of interviews and network analysis in the Western Indian Ocean, Hicks et al. ( 2013 ) aimed to identify the key trade-offs in how fishers, managers, and scientists prioritize coral reef ecosystem services. While scientists and managers’ ecosystem service priorities were more aligned, all three stakeholder groups agreed that fisheries, education and habitat are highly important services. However, The order of ecosystem priorities was different between stakeholder groups, whereby scientists agreed least with fishers leading to difficulties in balancing stakeholder value. Network analyses identified concerning trade-offs not immediately clear from the respondent’s ecosystem service priorities – for fishers maximization of recreation and tourism was not possible without a loss in education and legacy of local cultural traditions. As the long-term shift from traditional livelihoods to tourism-based industry proceeds (Murray 2007 ; Yacob et al. 2007 ; Lopes et al. 2015 ) tourism is considered to threaten local culture by offering a tempting and profitable alternative to embracing local cultural heritage (Brown et al. 1997 ) resulting in a loss of culture, traditional knowledge and even language, especially in younger generations.

13.5 Management Strategies: Benefits and Pitfalls

13.5.1 the unmanaged commons.

Long-standing fishing traditions, low tourism potential, and poor governance can cause mismanagement of reef resources and maximization of fishery intensity (Hardt 2008 ). The conceptual “tragedy of the unmanaged commons” is a problem described by Hardin ( 1968 ) where individual resource users aim to maximize their own benefit from an open access resource, resulting in the complete exhaustion of that resource. Open commons may benefit reef fishers temporarily, but long-term overfishing, depletion, or exhaustion of fish resources can lead to reduced ecological resilience, enhanced economic pressure, and concurrent social tension for subsistence income families that may be on the poverty line (Mumby et al. 2006 ; Walmsley et al. 2006 ; Fenner 2012 ; Teh and Sumaila 2013 ). Strategies to manage coral reef resources are necessary and vary widely. Top-down approaches by government, using ecosystem-based MPAs and fisheries embargos, are generally more suited to tourism-based coastal economies (Oracion et al. 2005 ; Yacob et al. 2007 ; Munga et al. 2012 ). Comparatively, bottom-up initiatives using collaborative management frameworks empower small-scale reef fishers and tourism operators to self-regulate (Cinner et al. 2012 ; Weeks and Jupiter 2013 ; Hunter et al. 2018 ). However, large coral reef tourism businesses or resorts can monopolize decision-making with strong financial backing and hence threaten co-management initiatives (Levine and Richmond 2014 ). Under the ever-changing world of international mobility, economic shifts, and climate-driven mass coral bleaching, adaptive co-management strategies supported by governments may provide the most resilient basis for management of coral reef resources (Cinner et al. 2012 ; Plummer et al. 2013 ; Weeks and Jupiter 2013 ).

13.5.2 Ecosystem-Based Management

To ensure a sustained resilience of coral reefs, management decisions must account for trends in ecosystem functionality (Bozec et al. 2016 ). On both ends of the spectrum between fishing intensity and tourism intensity, there are increased risks of ecological collapse and phase shifts away from the coral-dominated stable state (Van Beukering and Cesar 2004 ; Bozec et al. 2016 ). The importance of an ecological framework in decision-making is exemplified in the case of Bacuit Bay, Palawan, Philippines, in the 1970s (Hodgson and Dixon 1988 ). At this time Palawan was one of the last unspoiled areas of the Philippines with very low population density and plentiful marine and terrestrial resources. Throughout the 1980s and onward there was extensive immigration to Palawan, and unused resources became the subject of exploitation, with a 20% decline in forest area in 7 years alongside declines in yellowfin and skipjack tuna from intense fishery activities. Environmental degradation of the previously pristine coral reef and other marine ecosystems was further confounded by heavy siltation from forestry logging combined with dynamite and poison fisheries. An economic model was developed to test the effects of two management solutions: (1) to ban logging entirely in the bay’s watershed or (2) to allow logging to continue as planned. The results of the economic analysis predicted a “reduction in gross revenue of more than US$ 40 million over a 10-year period with continued logging of the Bacuit Bay watershed as compared with gross revenue given implementation of a logging ban” (Hodgson and Dixon 1988 ). This case study was resolved by the banning of logging in Palawan by the national government alongside the declaration of marine park status for the bay. The predictions about tourism growth were correct, however, overfishing has severely reduced populations of most high-value fish (Hodgson and Dixon 2000 ). This case highlights economic risks of coral reef degradation and the importance for policy-makers and environmental managers to heed and incorporate scientific recommendations on ecological trends into ecosystem-based management policies.

Another ecosystem-based management approach is the use of MPAs. Theoretically, MPAs fulfil the requirements of conservation scientists, tourism managers, and artisanal fishers (Fabinyi 2008 ) by promoting conservation, management, and protection of natural resources and positively influencing fish diversity and abundance, including that of commercially valuable fish (Munga et al. 2012 ). However, marine park gazettements are often combined with legislation to ban coral reef fisheries or allow only minor fishing activities (Yacob et al. 2007 ; Lopes et al. 2015 ; Samoilys et al. 2017 ). Therefore, MPAs solve the tragedy of the common dilemma at the expense of resource users; not all stakeholders benefit equally from MPA management (Lopes et al. 2015 ; Samoilys et al. 2017 ). This is due to combinations of the following effects: competition between different resource users for the same resource, weak management regulations, ineffective governance, scarcity of funding, and nonproportionality of stakeholder representation in decision-making positions (McClanahan 1999 ; Tupper et al. 2015 ; Zimmerhackel et al. 2016 ). MPAs in the tropics are typically designed around coral reefs, where marine-based tourism plays an important and potentially disproportionately strong role in MPA management. Increasingly marine tourism causes conflict in local communities where traditional fishers who are not well-suited to tourism are excluded from their livelihoods. Foreign tourists pay high prices that produce positive responses in some local groups but negative responses in other social groups such as artisanal fishers who do not benefit from tourism (Satria et al. 2004 ; Hicks et al. 2013 ). A lack of participative management and communication between stakeholders fosters divided perceptions and a lack of management policy uptake. Hence the drawback of ecosystem-based management is the uneven distribution of benefits.

13.5.3 Co-management

Collaborative management, also coined co-management, describes a decision-making system that combines top-down institutional frameworks and advice with bottom-up decision-making and empowerment of all local stakeholder groups (Roberts and Hawkins 2000 ; Cinner et al. 2012 ; Weeks and Jupiter 2013 ). Moving away from the top-down approach to management, such as in MPAs where some resources users are excluded, co-management employs community-scale local knowledge to work toward common goals (Levine and Richmond 2014 ). Increasing local involvement in MPA and resource use decision-making allows more balanced management solutions that fulfil the goals of tourism, fisheries, and other stakeholder groups, ensuring benefit-sharing from reef resources (Roberts and Hawkins 2000 ; de Andrade and de Oliveira Soares 2017 ). When executed successfully with local institutions, co-management initiatives provide various social benefits and can promote more culturally relevant policies (Cinner et al. 2012 ; Levine and Richmond 2014 ). Governments that lack financial resources can pair with local partners to implement activities that would be otherwise unfeasible (Techera 2007 ). Various studies show that co-management can also influence the revitalization and sustainable use of marine resources maintaining livelihoods (Cinner et al. 2012 ; Weeks and Jupiter 2013 ).

Linking themes underpinning success include government and legislative support frameworks, government encouragement of local leadership, distinct community boundaries, unified village perceptions and representative leadership, the right to exclude outsiders from resource exploitation, and community-level enforcement of local laws (Levine and Richmond 2014 ). However, without these necessary components, co-management initiatives can fail and waste financial resources (Schultz et al. 2011 ; Cinner et al. 2012 ; Levine and Richmond 2014 ). This is shown by the Malagasy case described by Bruggemann et al. ( 2012 ). In Madagascar, coral reef resources are managed under legally recognized local-scale governing bodies known as gelose (gestion locale sécurisée) and by local groups without legal status. This system is defined by a lack of government involvement or support. Resource use regulations are built locally using customary concepts including fady – activities that are taboo in certain areas, and dina  – local laws. While this was a previously successful co-management system, recently, reefs have become overfished due to increased human migration from inland areas to the coast, increasing the number of fishers breaking fady and dina rules (Bruggemann et al. 2012 ). Co-management initiatives require some top-down government organization and influence to support the adaptive capacity of local institutions (Plummer et al. 2013 ; Weeks and Jupiter 2013 ; Levine and Richmond 2014 ; Hunter et al. 2018 ).

13.5.4 Adaptive Co-management

While co-management initiatives have extensive societal benefits, extensive field surveys around the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific suggest that co-management initiatives do not significantly improve fish biomass or ecosystem resilience, “indeed, people may collectively organize to exploit resources rather than to sustain them” (Cinner et al. 2012 ). Adaptive co-management may present a more progressive sustainable approach to resource use (Cinner et al. 2012 ; Weeks and Jupiter 2013 ; Hunter et al. 2018 ) that is relevant to the Anthropocene and recent unprecedented bleaching of coral reefs across the world (Hughes et al. 2017 ). This decision-making system combines the government-local format of co-management with an additional evaluation and adaptation framework that includes environmental scientists in decision-making, using scientific advice to also promote long-term ecological sustainability (Weeks and Jupiter 2013 ).

13.6 Tools to Manage Trade-Offs

Due to complexity of multi-stakeholder decision-making and the wide range of factors affecting management success, sustainable adaptive co-management may seem an insurmountable challenge. However, various implementable management tools exist that can aid in balancing the trade-offs between fisheries, tourism, and other stakeholder groups and support coral reef socioeconomic systems (Stolk et al. 2007 ; Bozec et al. 2016 ; Faizan et al. 2016 ).

13.6.1 Ecological Fisheries Regulations

Combining ecosystem-based management and co-management empowers local fishers while also managing for ecological sustainability (Hunter et al. 2018 ). Using scientific knowledge of ecosystem functioning to give fisheries recommendations can balance the ecological trade-offs of fisheries without excluding resource users (Sary et al. 1997 ; Bozec et al. 2016 ). From fish-exclusion mesocosms at the inner Great Barrier Reef, we know that 70–90% reductions in herbivorous fish biomass can induce phase shifts away from the coral-dominated ecosystem state to a dense algal stable state with >90% maximum algal coverage (Hughes et al. 2007 ). A fully calibrated fishery model developed by Bozec et al. ( 2016 ) suggests that harvesting parrotfish at maximum sustainable yield (40% of exploitable biomass) can lead to long-term reductions (75%) in unfished biomass similar to those shown in Hughes’ fish-exclusion experiments. Given these results, phase shifts to algal-dominated ecosystem states are a realistic outcome from overfishing of grazing fish in coral reef ecosystems. Bozec et al. ( 2016 ) combined functional ecology and resilience theory to provide implementable management solutions to avoid ecosystem-breakdown scenarios; a minimum catch length of >30 cm for parrotfish fisheries can provide a win-win scenario for fisheries and environmental interests in the short term. Fisheries yields are predicted to benefit due to a higher proportion of large size-class fish, while grazing pressure is maintained, leading to more resilient coral reefs. Such win-win scenarios have also been shown empirically. A fish trap exchange program which replaced small mesh-size traps with larger mesh-size traps in Discovery Bay, Jamaica led to a recovery of local reef fish populations alongside a increased catch of larger more valuable fish and increased CPUE (Sary et al. 1997 ). Therefore, small changes in fishing practice can lead to reductions in fishing pressure needed to allow recovery of reef fish populations and even increase catch. Such a strategy can be used to alleviate overfishing, without compromising local livelihoods and traditions.

13.6.2 Iconic Species

Shark, schooling fish, rays, and sea turtles are used by snorkel and dive operators throughout the world to promote tourism (Fisher et al. 2008 ; Vianna et al. 2012 ; Zimmerhackel et al. 2016 ). Diving tourism related to marine megafauna is a stable industry and has increased in popularity immensely around the world over the last decades (Higham and Lück 2008 ). While all divers have a strong preference to see charismatic megafauna, experienced divers have more interest in cryptic fauna (Giglio et al. 2015 ). Therefore, even coral reefs without megafauna have tourism potential, and adapting to diver preferences can increase consumer satisfaction and revenue (Giglio et al. 2015 ). Vianna et al. ( 2012 ) showed that shark-based tourism and shark-diving were worth US$ 18 million per year to the economy of Palau, 24 times that of total fisheries revenue. The chance to view sharks was the principal reason chosen by visitors to come to Palau. Thus, shark diving is the main economic activity, generating employment opportunities for boat drivers, hotels and restaurant workers, and civil engineers. Promoting iconic species tourism can help support biodiversity, improve tourism revenues, and provide local populations with alternate employment opportunities than fisheries (Vianna et al. 2012 ; Higham and Lück 2008 ).

13.6.3 Tourist Fees

Implementing marine park and beach access fees for leisure activities is another method to increase tourism revenue while subsidizing losses in fisheries revenue. We present a summary of the willingness to pay (WTP) of tourists visiting coral reefs over the last 30 years, adapted from Asafu-Adjaye and Tapsuwan ( 2008 ) (Table 13.2 ). From this summary, Faizan et al. ( 2016 ) found that local visitors and tourists had WTP for fees of MYR 3 (US$ 0.65) for improving coral reef conservation in Malacca, Malaysia, which equates to over US$ 150,000 per annum. In Guam, diver WTP for reef conservation could contribute over US$ 8 million to annual revenues (Grafeld et al. 2016 ). As overseas divers’ WTP is more than that of local divers, increasing prices for foreign divers is a likely way to increase revenues. Consequently, more visitors would not be needed to compensate for the cost of maintaining MPAs (Asafu-Adjaye and Tapsuwan 2008 ). While most marine park rangers are not part of the fisheries sector, the additional revenues from tourist fees could be used to employ fishers to assist rangers in patrolling, an option that has already shown large public interest from local fishing communities (Elliott et al. 2001 ).

13.6.4 Artificial Reefs and Restoration

Artificial reefs, restored reefs, and recent efforts to reskin artificial or dead corals with live coral are ecologically relevant techniques to promote reef resilience, support fish populations, provide employment, enhance tourism opportunities, and promote public awareness on coral reef loss (Grossman et al. 1997 ; Lirman and Schopmeyer 2016 ; Hein et al. 2018 ). Therefore, such projects have an applied use as a management tool, to offer alternative tourism-based employment to fishers (Lirman and Schopmeyer 2016 ). Although it is debated, evidence suggests that large communities of fish can be sustained on artificial reefs (Stolk et al. 2007 ; Smith et al. 2016 ). Artificial reefs were developed in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and Europe (Coutin 2001 ) and were utilized up to 100 years ago by coastal fishing communities to boost fish catch around these structures (McGurrin et al. 1989 ). Improved fisheries from such aggregations have been well documented (McGurrin et al. 1989 ); however, it is not known if attracting and concentrating fish are effects of increased biomass or just a redistribution of biomass (Polovina and Sakai 1989 ; Polovina 1990 ; Stolk et al. 2007 ; Ajemian et al. 2015 ; Scott et al. 2015 ; Smith et al. 2016 ). Therefore, there is an urgent need for scientific assessments on the true effect of artificial reefs on fish stocks. SCUBA diving is the main commercial activity in coral reef areas (Hsui and Wang 2013 ). Recently, the use of artificial reefs has shifted toward tourism-based activities like diving, snorkeling, recreational fishing, nature preservation, and science (Seaman and Jensen 2000 ; Jakšić et al. 2013 ). It is important to consider the attitudes, perceptions, and satisfaction levels of scuba divers in the design of artificial reefs to guarantee good dives with a high level of biodiversity and wildlife photographic opportunities (Kirkbride-Smith et al. 2013 ). In Barbados, novice divers have a greater preference for artificial reef dive sites than experienced divers (Polak and Shasnar 2012 ). Artificial reefs can be used to reduce the physical damage of novice diving at sensitive natural sites while maintaining economic benefits by attracting an increasing number of advanced divers with specific diving requirements to less degraded natural reefs (Dearden et al. 2006 ; Kirkbride-Smith et al. 2013 ). Again, this shows how artificial reefs are an ecologically sensitive and enriching method of building resilience in MPAs.

13.7 Recommendations for Management

Weighing up the various costs and benefits of different industrial practices in coral reef ecosystems is a continual challenge. As resource rights, political situations and natural environments change new conflicts arise between conservationists, scientists, fishers, tourism operators and local employees of other coastal industries. Proposed and implemented management strategies are rarely one-fits-all solutions. Management plans tend to push for consensus in identifying the most important ecosystem service and then manage for that service; however, this approach does not accommodate complex interactions between stakeholders’ opinions or ecosystem service priorities.

We recommend holistic and effective resource use by developing adaptive co-management systems that combine top-down strategic frameworks with bottom-up decision-making. The tools and theories outlined in this review have been developed to promote the effectiveness of management actions, and some have good potential. Ecosystem-based fisheries modelling or long-term fisheries reconstructions can help direct fisheries regulations toward resilience, while the use of artificial reefs, tourist fees, and the promotion of iconic species can promote tourism and provide alternative livelihoods to fishers. Determining different stakeholder opinions and understanding trade-offs between different stakeholder priorities, as shown by Hicks et al. ( 2013 ), may lead to more integrated management decisions likely to represent the needs of local stakeholders proportionally. However, we point out that such co-management strategies should be framed by scientific ecological knowledge on the state and stability of coral reef ecosystems in the face of growing anthropogenic pressures. Hence, there is a need for extensive long-term ecological monitoring data. Comprehensive economic valuations of tourism and fisheries industries (e.g. those provided in the development of Palawan tourism in the Philippines. Hodgson and Dixon 1988 , have the power to make real change and are a central component needed to convince governments to implement sustainable policies that promote the maintenance of healthy coral reef ecosystems, economies, and livelihoods.

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First, we would like to thank Sailee Sakhalkar, Farid Dahdouh-Guebas, Erin Lachs, and our reviewers for their critical readings of the manuscript and suggestions to layout, style, and structure. Their contributions were invaluable to the construction of this chapter. We would like to thank Seh Ling for her knowledgeable insights into the social dynamics of coastal coral reef communities in Peninsular Malaysia. We are thankful to Simon Jungblut, Farid Dahdouh-Guebas, and Zainudin Bachok for their general advice on the publication process. Last but not least, we would like to thank Stephen Bergacker for sharing the photographs of his humbling first-hand experience with coral bleaching in the Maldives.

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This article is related to the YOUMARES 9 conference session no. 16: “Tropical Marine Research Mosaic: combining small studies to reveal the bigger picture.” The original Call for Abstracts and the abstracts of the presentations within this session can be found in the Appendix “Conference Sessions and Abstracts”, Chapter “12 Tropical Marine Research Mosaic: combining small studies to reveal the bigger picture”, of this book.

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Lachs, L., Oñate-Casado, J. (2020). Fisheries and Tourism: Social, Economic, and Ecological Trade-offs in Coral Reef Systems. In: Jungblut, S., Liebich, V., Bode-Dalby, M. (eds) YOUMARES 9 - The Oceans: Our Research, Our Future. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-20389-4_13

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Sustainable fishing staying afloat in developed world, sinking in poorer regions

Fishermen at Beau Vallon beach in the Seychelles prepare their nets for fishing.

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More people than ever rely on fisheries and aquaculture for food, and income, but the seafood industry is facing a “dangerous” sustainability divide when comparing trends in the developed world versus those in poorer regions, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) revealed on Monday.

“Fisheries are facing an important crossroad and the world needs a new vision in the 21st century”, the UN agency lead with in a press statement, echoing the main message by it’s Director General, Qu Dongyu, at the opening of a major conference on the matter, which opened Monday.

By 2050, humans will be nearly 10 billion in number, and “land alone will not feed us”, Mr. Donguy explained, thus, the world will need to increasingly rely on aquatic species to eat.

The International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability, taking place from 18 to 21 November at FAO ’s Rome headquarters, convenes researchers, business people and members of various other sectors to identify how to maximize food from the world’s rivers and oceans, without compromising the health of aquatic ecosystems.

Noting a “dangerous trend” in the fishing industry, the FAO chief said that while fisheries in developed regions are increasingly sustainable, meaning fished populations are being replenished, and conditions for industry workers are improving, developing regions lagging behind.

The great provider of life

Achieving global sustainability in the seafood sector looks murky. With the concerning state of the world’s oceans and increasing demand for freshwater species keeping best practices at bay, FAO noted.

Innovation is about stopping doing something old &amp; starting something new. It's not just about technology, it's about our state of mind. - @Manu_FAO We are starting #SustainableFisheries Symposium off with a #FisheriesInnovation event to change state of minds about our oceans. pic.twitter.com/HEUw2z4qT0 FAO FAO

Plastic pollution, the effects of climate change, habitat degradation, and overfishing are draining marine fish stocks, with one in every three stocks overfished, compared to one in ten 40 years ago. In addition, inland fisheries (in rivers or fish farms), are feeling the pressure of a growing demand on freshwater species.

Worldwide, one billion people rely on fish as their main source of animal protein, according to the UN N World Health Organization (WHO) , and in some small island states, people meet their protein needs exclusively from seafood.

A person derives, on average, 20.3 kilograms of top-quality protein and essential micronutrients from fish every year, with a rise in 3 percent of global fish consumption since the 1960’s, according to FAO.

As far as economies go, around the world, one in ten people depend on fishing for their livelihoods and are often the poorest in society.

From the mid-1970’s, developing countries have increased their net trade benefits from fish from almost zero to over 40 billion dollars each year, FAO’s Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Manuel Barange, pointed out at the Conference.

Some 95 per cent of people hinging on seafood for their livelihoods live in Africa and Asia, many struggling to make ends meet despite the degree of danger involved in the work. Commercial fishing was rated the second deadliest profession on earth in 2019.

The FAO Director-General put forward three solutions to guide fisheries toward sustainability, including re-investing in marine and freshwater sustainability programmes, investing in ocean growth, and ensuring protection measures are met with effective management.

“Treat the ocean with the respect it deserves, and it will forgive our foolish ways, and it will replenish  itself and do what it has done in the past - be the great provider of life on planet earth”, Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Oceans, urged at the Sympsonium’s opening.

2020: ‘A new deal with nature’

Four of the ten targets under the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to protect oceans, will mature come 2020, including illegal fishing, which the UN’s Special Envoy said begs cooperation from countries who haven’t signed FAO’s Agreement to stamp out the problem.

Moreover, the coming year will be one “in which we create a new deal with nature” he highlighted, as a host of environmental protection events will take place: The UN Ocean Conference to scale up ocean action , the UN Biodiversity Conference , the IUCN World Conservation Congress, and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

By the Sympsonium’s end, participants are expected to present a technical document that synthesized the information and debate in each of the event’s sessions, to be table at the 34th session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries, set for July 2020.

The document will form the platform for a high-level policy statement on the role, value and sustainability status of global and regional fisheries.

“If we focus on our science, our innovation spirit, our technologies, we will secure and protect one of the oldest and most undervalued food industries,” the FAO chief said, urging for delegates to “aim big” and take “concrete” steps toward change.

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Bill Nye holding a wrench in one hand and a plunger in the other

Can ecotourism increase climate resilience in tropical small-scale fishing communities?

tourism board goes fishing for local solution

By Christopher Cusack, Edwina Garchitorena and Rod Fujita

Globally, fisheries are of great importance. Yet small-scale fishers and their communities in the tropics are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rebuilding and managing the fish stocks that these communities rely on is critical to ensuring the food security and climate resilience of hundreds of millions of small-scale fishers globally. Generally, we know how to achieve this: reduce fishing pressure to allow stocks to grow to healthy levels and protect and improve fragile ocean ecosystems.

tourism board goes fishing for local solution

One possibility is the development of ecotourism in tropical communities. Ecotourism is based on the ability of natural ecosystems to attract tourists who spend money on guides, equipment, restaurants, hotels and other goods and services, which in turn generate income, jobs and revenues. There are many examples of this around the world, most centered around “charismatic megafauna” such as whales, dolphins and large fish such as sharks and rays. But situations where these species are present consistently and can form the basis for an ecotourism industry are relatively rare across the tropics. What is more common are communities with good (or improvable) overall environmental quality and the presence of smaller species such as reef fish and sea turtles. The coastal community of Moalboal is one interesting example.

tourism board goes fishing for local solution

In 2019, a team of scientists from EDF, Cornell and Stony Brook University traveled to Moalboal in the Philippines. The mission: to see whether we could use a portable acoustic transponder — or sonar — to quantify the biomass of sardines and herrings. The reason: to see if ecotourism reliant on these fish stocks could be more valuable than harvesting the fish themselves.

Many countries, including the Philippines, depend on fisheries to generate food and income by catching them. Sometimes the pressure to catch these fish is intense, driven by poverty.  However in Moalboal, a ban on fishing had been imposed in a marine sanctuary to protect these small silvery fish, and we became curious about that.

The reason for the fishing ban soon became clear — we saw boatloads of tourists visit the marine sanctuary every day and noticed that a lot of dive shops were promoting trips to “swim with the sardines.” We soon joined them, and the experience was wonderful: we were surrounded by constantly shifting silvery curtains of fish suspended in the clear azure waters.

tourism board goes fishing for local solution

We then looked at the different kinds of economic benefits the herring school generated to estimate its value for ecotourism. This included jobs as guides and in the hospitality industry, user fees collected by the local government, hotel stays, scuba rentals and excursion fees. We estimated the total economic value of the herring school: about $17 million.

tourism board goes fishing for local solution

We found four broad enabling conditions that have allowed the Moalboal ecotourism industry to develop and thrive.

First, the quality of the coral reef ecosystems and the presence of the herring school provide the draw for tourists to come and visit. Without this natural capital, it is unlikely that Moalboal would generate the huge economic value it currently does.

Second, the management structure in Moalboal is centered around the community itself. The municipality governs nearshore marine resources and includes community stakeholders in management decisions. The municipality serves an important role assessing fees for visitation of marine reserves and using those fees to administer and enforce regulations, including hiring local marine reserve monitors and enforcement agents.

Third, effective community-based enforcement of the marine reserves is enabled by their relatively small size and proximity to shore. We could see the boundaries of the herring sanctuary from the beach in front of our hotel. If one can visually delineate the boundaries of a reserve, enforcement is much easier than if a boundary is an “imaginary” line in the ocean several miles to sea.

And fourth, a large proportion of the economic benefits generated in Moalboal accrue to local community members. Rules governing foreign ownership mean Filipinos own at least half of all businesses in the community. This probably goes a long way toward preventing the “economic leakage” that characterizes many ecotourism ventures, where most of the profits go to outside tourism operators and investors rather than to the local community.

And benefits of the ecotourism industry don’t stop there. The authors estimate that the ecotourism industry provides around 1,000 jobs to local community members, including some current and former fishermen.

Ecotourism can help reduce pressure on fish stocks in small-scale fisheries by providing good jobs, profits and revenues that can be used to provide the services that people need. And you don’t need whales and other charismatic megafauna to generate these benefits — little fish can do it, too.

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tourism board goes fishing for local solution

Fishing could help tourism recover in Europe

tourism board goes fishing for local solution

Angling – which is worth €2 billion to the European economy each year – could play a major part in helping the continent’s tourism sector get back on its feet after the Covid-19 pandemic.

With angler numbers growing in almost every European country during various lockdowns alongside its huge socio-economic value, the sport has a key role to play in boosting visitors once restrictions begin to ease.

The idea is part of a major report by the European Parliament Forum on Recreational Fisheries and Aquatic Environment, which includes representatives from major fishing groups and politicians.

MEP Niclas Herbst, chair of the RecFishing Forum, said the Covid-19 crisis had shown how important angling can be, as it provides a sense of nature and allows people to go outside. He also highlighted the importance of the tourism sector in Europe revealed plans to organise a European tourism convention to draft a 2050 roadmap towards a “sustainable, innovative and resilient European tourism ecosystem.”

Figures from this year so far reveal that Denmark saw a 20 per cent rise in fishing licences being bought in March and April compared to the previous year, in The Netherlands there were more than 100,000 licences sold in the first five months of 2020, where it would normally take a year to reach this amount, Sweden saw a 160 per cent hike in licence sales in May compared to previous months while Finland saw a 50 per cent rise in them in march, compared with last year.

Irish MEP Grace O’Sullivan drew on her own experience to explain how angling helped forge some life-long friendships and is being taught through generations. She revealed that, in Ireland, around 406,000 people went fishing in 2012, with a direct spending of €555 million, of which €125 million was generated by overseas tourists.

She also claimed that estimated 83 per cent of young people in schools wanted to go fishing, meaning angling could be a huge opportunity in terms of education related to nature and fish stocks conservation objectives.

Benefits of angling

Dr Stefan Spahn, a European Anglers Alliance (EAA) board member, revealed that, during the Covid-19 crisis, anglers were able to continue their hobby in most European countries, in compliance with all restrictions and measures in place. He believed that this was beneficial to all, as spending 30 minutes outside lowers levels of stress.

He then argued that angling tourism could be seen as a solution for the recovery of the tourism sector, especially in terms of ‘weekend anglers‘, whose trips have a positive impact at a more local level, and given that people would tend to travel locally rather than abroad during the COVID-19 crisis.

In Europe, there are around 25 million anglers, including 10 million sea anglers, contributing some €20 billion to the economy, from tackle, fees, lodging and travel, with sea fishing alone supporting more than 100,00 jobs. Indeed, in some countries recreational fishing delivers more economic benefits than commercial fishing, with many less fish caught.

Frank Brodrecht, CEO of specialist fishing tour operator Kingfisher Angelreisen, said: “Angling tourism is only a small part of total tourism but it is quite unique and interesting, as angling is a passion. That is why anglers really want to travel and to fish – there are very limited reasons for anglers to cancel their trips, in comparison with regular travellers. The recovery of the sector could be very fast, if the travel infrastructure is functioning.”

Igor Miličić, secretary general of the Fishing Association of Slovenia, said his country was a proven destination for travelling anglers, who spend an average of almost five and a half days in the upper Soca Valley, contributing around €300 per day or €1.6 million per year.

The organisation also works closely with the Slovenian Tourism Board as well as being involved in a number of conservation activities.

Olivier Portrat, CEO of the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) recognised that those were challenging times, affecting a lot of economic sectors, especially tourism but also, that angling is social distancing at its best.

He said: “Angling is a sustainable form of tourism and a very conservation minded one: once a fish is caught, anglers are free to decide whether to release it or kill it.”

He underlined that the supposed importance of recreational fisheries on some fish stocks should not prevent the EU from proposing a policy vision and support for this sector that represents a genuine opportunity for Europe, including in tourism.

“There is always a way to manage the impact of recreational fisheries on fish stocks, through bag limits, minimum reference sizes, fishing seasons and this should be only a part of the EU’s approach to recreational fisheries.”

Explaining that data for some areas was very spares, he called for a pan-European study, which would give a general overview of the sector, covering turnover, social and economic impacts and cultural importance of the sector, at sea and in freshwater.

He underlined that angling and angling tourism are part of the Blue Economy and should be part of the strategic vision of the European Union.

He cited the 2030 Maritime Strategy of Catalonia, which rightly identified recreational fishing as an activity commonly practiced all year round, creating a relevant and sustainable economic activity, estimating that the sector provided a turnover of €89 million in 2016.

He added: “Recreational fisheries are an integral part of the strategic plan for the region, including actions related to the sustainable, integrated and harmonious development of the blue economy that respects the human uses of the sea.”

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With no-fishing zones, Mexican fishermen restored the marine ecosystem

  • By Deepa Fernandes

fishing nets in the sea of cortez

In the Sea of Cortez, off the coast of La Paz, implementing no-fishing zones has helped the marine ecosystem recover. Now that the fish are back, many ex-fishermen have moved from fishing to guiding tourists on underwater expeditions. 

Matt Rogers/PRI

The idea that the ocean can run out of fish might seem implausible. Yet if you ask Jesús Enrique León Lara, that’s exactly what has been happening over the last decade in his tiny patch of paradise, a village called Agua Verde in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur.

“We lived off what we caught, from what the ocean gave us,” León said. “There was so much fish, so many types of fish. But now it’s not like that. There’s a lot less fish.”

León comes from a long line of fishermen, stretching back at least to his great-grandparents. So do many of his neighbors. So when he and other fisherfolk in Agua Verde started coming in from a day’s fishing with very little, sometimes even nothing, worry spread in the community. Their livelihood was on the line.

It's a problem facing small fishing communities worldwide — overfishing and other human impacts have led to days when no one catches anything. The seas off the Mexican coast of Baja California Sur — a big fishing area — have seen the fish population dwindle, according to Hudson Weaver, manager of the sustainable fisheries program at Baja’s  Sociedad de Historia Natural Niparajá , a conservation nonprofit.

“There used to be a lot more fish in the water all over Baja California,” Weaver said.

Weaver, who has worked in Agua Verde for 12 years, said there are lots of reasons for that.

“[There are] the changes we’ve seen in a lot of the climate and the water temperatures,” Weaver said. “There’s natural changes like sardines that go through boom and bust cycles, and then there’s changes in the fisheries — so overfishing or fishing past the point of being able to replenish those fish in a yearly fashion.”

Fishing boats big and small came here from all over Mexico. And even the local fishermen themselves were just catching too many fish. All these things combined ultimately brought some fishing communities here to the breaking point.

It led Weaver and her colleagues at Niparajá to begin conversations with fishing families in Agua Verde about how to reverse the trend. And the conversations came to focus on one radical idea: Just stop fishing. At least for a while.

In Baja California Sur it’s known as zonas de refugio , or no-fishing zones. The idea is that if you stop fishing, the marine ecosystem — and the fish — might eventually be able to bounce back.

fishing boats in a harbor in mexico

Playa Manglito is one of the oldest fishing spots in La Paz. Today the region has many no-fishing zones, which have helped to improve the amount of fish and the quality of corals. 

But it would also mean a big hit to local subsistence fishermen and their families. So could it work?

The experience of another community in the area suggests it can.

Cabo Pulmo, 250 miles south of Agua Verde, is so remote it’s off the state’s electricity grid. But it used to be a fishing paradise.

“It was full, full of sea bass and grouper,” says longtime fisherman Mario Castro, pointing to the sea around his boat, which is moored at a spot where he used to fish every day.

In classic fisherman style, Castro regales me with stories of the huge fish he used to catch. His face is weather-beaten but animated, and he’s totally at home on the sloppy ocean that roils the boat.

Some 25 years ago, he says, things began to change. Too often his fishing line would dangle the entire day without hooking a single fish.

So 20 years ago, Castro and his fellow fishermen took the radical step of turning almost the entire area into a no-fishing zone. And the results have been dramatic.

As we traverse the ocean around Cabo Pulmo where no one has fished in 20 years, Castro points out a sea turtle, part of a thriving marine community. Castro said locals are seeing wildlife here that even some of his old uncles don’t ever remember seeing.

After two decades of not fishing at all, he says, the ocean here is full of fish.

Octavio Aburto backs up what the local residents are seeing. He’s a marine biologist who has been studying Cabo Pulmo for all those years, and he says this little patch of ocean has become a case study in underwater regeneration.

“The corals are growing faster and better. Why? Because they are healthier,” Aburto said.

The corals are the feeding ground for the littlest fish. And those now have a chance to grow into food for the big predators likes sharks, which Aburto says are also back. Altogether, he says, the fishing ban has helped restore a thriving ocean ecosystem.

“When you have a community that has all the elements for that community — like big predators, herbivores, corals, sea fans, octopuses — when you have everything there, the community is stronger and each of the species with the community they can be more productive,” he said.

Aburto was part of a group of scientists at the University of Baja California Sur who worked on setting up the no-fishing zone. They even petitioned the Mexican government to have the area declared a national park.

Mario Castro, the former fisherman, worked with the scientists and ultimately became the local leader in the effort.

It was no easy task. It meant suspending a way of life that was generations old and convincing all the fisherman to put the prospect of long-term stability ahead of short-term economic loss.

But he managed to convince his old uncles and father and brother, all the fishermen in the village, to give it a go.

Before long, Castro says, they watched beautiful fish begin to return. But they resisted temptation and stuck with the no-fishing plan, leaving just one tiny sliver of the ocean open for daily consumption. Instead, to fill the gap, they decided to try to make Cabo Pulmo into a destination for diving and snorkeling. Fishermen would become guides. Castro was one of the first to get certified.

And word slowly spread about the exotic marine life at Cabo Pulmo. Tourists began coming, despite the bumpy, dirt road access to the town and the lack of regular electricity.

At first, it was only a trickle, maybe one tourist a week. “It was 10 years of suffering,” Castro said.

Mario Castro stands in front of his dive shop in Mesico

Mario Castro traded his fishing equipment for diving gear, and business has never been better. 

But 20 years later, Cabo Pulmo is a hot place for divers. Castro’s family runs two snorkel and dive tour companies and they take out multiple boats a day full of tourists. Showing off their underwater wonders has become such a thriving business that the Castros and other former fisherfolk ultimately decided not to go back to fishing at all. They see their future in dive tourism.

And the town’s experiment may be an example to other communities in the region.

José Flores lives in La Paz, about 90 miles up the Baja coast from Cabo Pulmo, where he is the head of a fishing cooperative. He grew up fishing for what his family ate every day. But here, too, the fish started to run out.

When Flores heard about no-fishing zones, the idea seemed risky. But he also saw that it seemed to be working in other places. So he joined an effort to help establish one in La Paz. It was a tough sell, as it had been in Cabo Pulmo. But Flores says it’s working here too.

“The whole area has improved and the richness of the ocean life returned,” Flores said.

Still, he said it has been challenging to make sure that everyone respects the boundaries, especially people from out of town. Locals have had to work with the government to enforce the restrictions.

It’s a set of challenges the conservation group Niparajá has seen up and down the Baja coast. But as in Cabo Pulmo, part of the solution has been diving, although not for recreation and tourism.

On a recent July morning, young people from the remote community of Agua Verde, where Jesús León Lara lives and which also established its own small no-fishing zone, were in La Paz for a week-long dive training run by Niparajá. The participants were learning how to patrol their no-fishing zone back home and monitor changes in the abundance of fish to help determine whether their experiment is actually working.

Ultimately, the data could help make the case for expanding the protected zone. Initial results indicate the fish are coming back to Agua Verde.

And Jesús León Lara is relieved.

“There’s no other way,” León said. Unlike Cabo Pulmo, his part of Baja is just too remote to attract many tourists. So if his community is going to survive, it really needs the fish to come back.

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Depleting fishing grounds and the need to practice sustainable fishing at Titiana

by Ronald Toito'ona | 12 October 2021 | News

People in shallow clear ocean water gathered around a circling net

In various coastal villages around Solomon Islands, the use of passive devices were used in the past. Photo: Ronald F. Toito’ona.

HONIARA – The dual impacts of over-fishing and climate change appear to have resulted in the depletion of fish stocks on various common fishing grounds used by local fishermen from Titiana village, in the Western province of Solomon Islands.

Titiana is a coastal community of Micronesian decent, situated at the southern shore about 2 miles west of Gizo, the province’s capital town.

In response to poor catches, villagers are now looking more at revisiting their old fishing methods to ensure that their fish and marine resources are sustainably managed.

As populations have grown, fishing in nearshore and coastal waters has, in some areas, lead to depleted resources and changes in fishing practices.

Common fishing grounds are no longer as rich in fish stocks, and fishing communities find it more difficult to cope with reduced catches that take more time and effort. This is increasingly an everyday challenge for many communities in the Solomon Islands.

With the daily challenges of trying to meet their demands for fish to eat, the local fishers of Titiana have now started to take sustainable fishing practices seriously as they begin to respond to concerns that their community’s main food source is on the brink of collapse.

Wesley Misu, 27, is a fisherman from the Titiana Community. In a recent interview, Misu said sustainable fishing was not a question of concern for many years. But now, communities are seeing the importance of fishing to their livelihood as they respond to declining catches despite their increased efforts.

With the complications surrounding the increase in over-fishing at the Titiana community, the fishermen are now eager to understand how sustainable fishing works.

Tuna laid out for sale at market on a woven mat

Different sizes of tuna being sold at the Gizo Market. Photo George J Maelagi

The experience: depleting fishing grounds and over-harvesting

For the past 20 years, Misu joined his relatives and friends on fishing trips, and has  seen and experienced the changes brought about by over-harvesting of fish stocks.

During an interview at the Gizo Fish Market, Misu said it is much more difficult than 20 years ago as people have to go out very far to fish and sometimes come back home with only few fish. At times, their catches are not enough to feed their families or to be sold for little income at the market.

“In recent years, fishers would return home with less than 20 fish. This is different from the experience of the early 2000s, where we usually travel out fishing and return with a boatload of fish or tuna.

“I believe that, before, good catches were a result of careful harvesting of fish stocks in our common fishing grounds, using the traditional fishing techniques and also with the use of right fishing gear which also contributes to sustainable fishing,” said Misu.

Another challenge that the young fisher said he is experiencing now is the impact of climate change on the movements of fish stocks from their common fishing grounds.

Misu said sometimes when he goes out to fish, he returns with nothing at all.

“Maybe this is caused by the rising tides or how the tides are changing each day.”

Man holding up a tuna for sale at a market near other tuna laid out

Wesley Misu showing a tuna that was caught at an industrial FAD located in oceanic waters south of Gizo. Photo George J Maelagi.

In spite of all the challenges Misu and the fishermen from Titiana are facing today, they never give up exploring the reefs and deep seas to fish.

They said they see a lot of potential in fishing because it benefits their families over the passing years.

“Fishing has always benefited us in all aspects of life. I would be unemployed or broke it wasn’t for fishing—or if there is no ocean, we wouldn’t fish.

“Therefore, we have to keep our ocean and fish in sustainable ways so that our future generations can enjoy eating from our sea resources like now,” Misu and the group of fishermen explained.

Another issue raised by the fishers as a contributing factor to the depleting fishing grounds was the use of small gillnets to fish in the reefs and near Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). With the small sized gillnets, it is common knowledge there is a possibility that most unwanted fish species and other marine lives will be caught as bycatch.

“That said, people need to have a clear understanding of the fish population and the extinctions of other fish and marine species, and also choose carefully which type of fishing method they can use,” the fishers stated.

Apart from the accounts of the Titiana fishers, the fishing community of Gizo also reported that people are using all kind of fishing methods, especially in the technological age. In doing so, they are contributing to the over-harvesting of some endangered fish and marine species.

This does not only affect the fish, but also the reef’s ecosystem.

Besides, almost every day people went out to the sea to fish, so they are well versed with the behavior of the fish and the locations of the fishing grounds. This makes it difficult for them to fish at the same spot because of the repetition of harvesting on the same fishing ground every day.

Young man holding 4 tuna standing near a market

A young lad returns with his day’s catch to be sold at the Gizo fish Market. Photo George J. Maelagi.

Finding the solution to create a local, sustainable fishery

In various coastal villages around Solomon Islands, traditional ways of fishing using throwing or shooting devices (spears, bow and arrow, throw nets, spear-guns) or passive devices (fish-traps, gillnets, fish-pens) were used in the past.

For the Titiana fishing community, the Kura fishing method began long ago, especially since the mid-1950s when the first settlers of the community migrated from Kiribati, between the 1950s and the early 70s while Solomon Islands was a British protectorate.

Others have also stated that Kura is a local name for deep-sea fishing, with lure hooks and a white plastic shank, that has been done for several years. This method is said to have been introduced by Filipino (Philippines) fishers.

The Kura fishing technique is an old-fashioned way of fishing which Misu and other fishermen from his village have been recently trialing to see if it can contribute to sustainable fishing.

Misu explains how the Kura fishing works.

“I first went on a Kura fishing trip two decades ago when I was a kid. Back then, I used to go out on fishing trips with my uncle or sometimes with my friends.

“This method (Kura) is a very easy way to fish because you use coconut leaves attached to a rock and drop your bait to the bottom of the ocean to attract the fish.

“After dropping the fishing line, you will just wait to pull the tuna or fish when you feel that it bites the bait,” Misu explains.

Kura is a simple fishing technique, but the size of the fishing line and hook determines one’s catch.

Another old fishing method is toe-line fishing. According to Misu, this type of method is less dangerous for juvenile fish because one can only catch normal sized fish.

Interestingly, both the Kura and toe-line fishing can also be used in offshore and inshore fishing. These methods are also used to catch tuna near deep-sea FADs.

A lure attached to a hand line, rolled up on the deck of a boat

Example of a handline and lure used for surface trolling and kite fishing for yellowfin tuna

Realising the importance of FADs for a sustainable fishery

As fishing is the only means of income generating activity for the Titiana coastal community, the use of FADs is seen as a crucial way to manage fish population.

“The people here are heavily dependent on our sea resources. This is due to our ocean fishing skills, and our lack of land and expertise for gardening – the other main food and livelihood option in rural Solomon Islands,” Misu said.

It was also reported that offshore fishing can be dangerous for Titiana fishers, due to the fact that the industrial FADs are located in oceanic waters to the south of Gizo, with fishers operating small outboard motor-powered canoes to access these FADs between 20 km and 70 km offshore. If the weather gets rough it can be dangerous, and it is also very expensive for the fuel to travel so far offshore.

“We used to travel far to fish for tuna at the industrial FADs.

“But it can be costly, especially if we went out on a trip and the catch was limited. This means making a loss, as we  need to cover the cost of fuel and other expenses incurred on that single trip,” the fishermen explained.

tourism board goes fishing for local solution

Children of Titiana pictured swimming in the reef that was once rich in fish and other marine produces. Photo Ronald F Toito’ona.

However, the fishers are also aware that fishing FADs offshore is  one way to manage fish population and to protect the reefs and its ecosystem from over-harvesting.

This is essential for reefs to avoid over exploitation. This way, fisherman and communities will preserve the reefs to fish for a longer time.

“The idea is basically to have more coastal and nearshore locally made FADs to attract fish after a period of time. After the FADs are launched, no one is allowed to fish at the FADs until it open for community harvest.

“That way, fish stocks in the common fishing areas will be healthy and sustainable in the long run,” the Titiana fishers said.

They also encourage local fishermen around Solomon Islands and the Pacific region to practice sustainable fishing. The group of fishers stated that every fisher needs to understand how to fish properly in their respective fishing grounds. Only in this way will they have a sustainable population of fish in the ocean, from the deep to the seashores.

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Overfishing, unsustainable tourism threaten Tañon Strait  

  • Jonathan L. Mayuga
  • September 17, 2023
  • 6 minute read

tourism board goes fishing for local solution

Last month, the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Science (UPD-CS) reported the declining population of dolphins in Tañon Strait, a body of water in the Visayas that is known to harbor a variety of amazing mammals, including rare whales and dolphins.

This was based on the survey the UPD-CS conducted in the strait from July 20 to 23, focusing on dolphin populations within its southern part.

“The initiative revealed deeply concerning trends, such as a decrease in dolphin numbers, a reduction in species diversity and evasive behavior possibly linked to increasing human activity in the area,” the UPD-CS reported.

Fewer, more elusive dolphins

In a news release, Dr. Lemnuel Aragones, head of the UPD-CS Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Laboratory (MMRCL) that conducted the survey, said the number of spinner dolphins recorded by the team was fewer compared to past their years’ undertakings.

Earlier surveys witnessed vibrant gatherings of diverse species of cetaceans—including numerous kinds of dolphins and species of whales, with groups of as many as 100 individuals spotted in a single day.

However, the recent survey was starkly different, showcasing only three species—spinner dolphins, common bottlenose dolphins and dwarf sperm whales.

Only between 80 and 90 individual spinner dolphins were encountered throughout the four-day survey, compared to 100 in just one day.

Aragones added that the team observed the evasive behavior of the dolphins—which is a sign of possible stress or disturbance due to the persistent presence of aggressive dolphin-watching boats.


By the definition of the Fisheries Code and Amended Fisheries Code, Tañon Strait—that separates the islands of Negros and Cebu in the Visayas—is a municipal fishing ground, hence off-limits to commercial fishing.

Municipal fishing grounds are the areas between the shorelines and 15 kilometers (km) toward the sea.

The areas are for the exclusive use of small, mostly subsistence fishermen, who have limited capacity to fish in distant waters.

Protectors of Tañon Strait have complained against overfishing in the area, a very important fishing ground both for Negrenses and Cebuanos.

Oceana Philippines, an international nongovernment organization advocating for sustainable fishing practices to conserve the world’s oceans, said commercial fishing vessels have been frequenting the Tañon Strait in the past. 

The group is also pushing for the implementation of the Amended Fisheries Code and the enforcement of monitoring devices in commercial fishing vessels to detect the behaviors of commercial fishers.

Tourism woes

To generate jobs and livelihood opportunities, local governments in Negros and Cebu promote ecotourism in Tañon Strait, including whale and dolphin watching.

Lately, Aragones said his team observed a notable change in the behavior of dolphins, a possible sign of stress or disturbance, probably due to the persistent presence of aggressive dolphin-watching boats.

Aragones and his team, who have been monitoring the region since 1997, observed a significant increase in the number of dolphin-watching boats. 

Although he noted that the area now hosts around 60 boats, down from the original 260, he still fears that this may still be too much.

“Too many dolphin-watching boats in the area disrupt the cetaceans’ habits,” he said. Marine mammals like dolphins and whales belong to cetacean family.

Less fish, less dolphin food

Aragones suspected that overutilization of the area’s resources is a contributing factor to the decline in the dolphin population.

“There should also be a comprehensive assessment of fisheries resources in the entire strait as there is clearly less food now for these creatures,” he explained.

To preserve the delicate ecosystem and to safeguard the remarkable marine mammals in Tañon Strait, the scientists have proposed several measures, including a moratorium on adding more boats to the already existing fleet.

They also underscored the need for a comprehensive assessment of fisheries resources, including fishing activities in Tañon Strait, as a decline in food availability may be exacerbating the dolphins’ struggles.

Furthermore, strict monitoring and regulation of illegal unreported and unregulated fishing practices in the area are necessary.

Sustainable tourism practices needed

The marine mammal expert emphasized the importance of educating boat operators on responsible dolphin-watching protocols.

He said a certification process that trains operators to navigate around dolphins without causing stress could play a pivotal role in protecting the charismatic animals.

Research also suggests that previous ecotourism activities negatively impacted dolphin behavior, reinforcing the need for responsible and sustainable tourism practices.

Tañon Strait is not the only area affected by unsustainable tourism practices.  

Beach resorts like Boracay, El Nido, Puerto Galera and other popular tourist spots have experienced environmental degradation.  

Not far from Tañon Strait, the Cebu whale shark watching in Sorsogon and Oslob have led to disturbances of ecosystems and altered behaviors of the whale sharks.

In Sorsogon, tourists on boats chase whale sharks to get a glimpse of the huge docile creature, and swim close to them for photo opportunities.  

In Oslob, Cebu, whale sharks are fed to make them stay in the area, altering their supposedly “wild” behavior of filter-feeding plankton in coastal areas, and later on migrate to other areas as they tend to be more dependent on the food provided by tourist operators in the name of “eco-tourism.”

Protected area

Known as the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape, it is a Protected Area by virtue of Proclamation 1234 of 1998.

The area is about 160 km long. It connects the Visayas Sea in the north to the Bohol Sea in the south. Its width varies from 5 km to 27 km, with the narrowest point in the south.

With an area of more than 5,000 sq km, it is the largest marine protected area in the country and is supposed to be protected by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which implements the Expanded National Protected Areas System (E-Nipas) Act.

Demystifying dolphin population decline

Theresa Mundita S. Lim, executive director of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), said there are several reasons that may cause the decline of cetacean populations.

“Pollution is one. Marine debris, such as plastics can be ingested by dolphins, which mistake them for jellyfish and other sea creatures that they feed on,” Lim told the BusinessMirror in an interview via Messenger on August 21.

Lim, a biodiversity expert, said ghost nets can also entangle large marine wildlife like dolphins, and cause them to drown.

Worse, she said oil spills may also suffocate large marine wildlife, driving them away, the same way that noise pollution can also drive them away.  

“Noise can disorient them, thus, affecting their normal movement, driving them away, and could even result in strandings,” Lim said.

Meanwhile, she said severely polluted waters due to chemicals, or high levels of bacteria from domestic waste, can cause various diseases.

Lastly, any form of disturbance, such as irresponsible tourism can drive away their populations and they may choose to travel through other routes.

According to Lim, Asean is known to host an assortment of dolphin species. Spinner dolphins, she said, naturally occur in other parts of Southeast Asia.

“They migrate across the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, as they are found within the Coral Triangle area,” she said.

Alarming, sad

Reacting to the UPD-CS report, Oceana Philippines Vice President Gloria Estenzo-Ramos said the declining population of dolphins and what is happening now in Tañon Strait is both alarming and sad, but said it is not surprising.

“I am not surprised by this development. There still seems to be no sense of stewardship and genuine sense of responsibility to enforce the Enipas Act, and Fisheries Code, to name a few, and the management plan duly approved by DENR under the sterling leadership of then-BMB [Biodiversity Management Bureau] Director Mundita Lim and DENR 7 Regional Director [Isabelo] Montejo,” Ramos, an environmental lawyer, told the BusinessMirror on August 21.

Stronger law enforcement

Ramos said there’s a need to revive policies and programs that strengthen protection in Tañon Strait.

“We would like to see the Coastal Law Enforcement in Region 7 [CLEAR 7] to be active again. The Tañon Strait Protected Area Management Board met regularly and approved the resolution to require vessel monitoring measures for all commercial fishing vessels transiting in Tañon Strait,” Ramos said.

 Ramos’s leadership in Oceana saw the creation of many Bantay Dagat (Sea Patrol) volunteer groups in Negros and Cebu, among its various initiatives to protect this very important body of water.

According to Ramos, Cebu province under then-Gov. Hilario Davide III became the first province to require vessel monitoring.

She added that climate change aggravates the impacts of “human indifference, apathy and greed in illegally, shamelessly and recklessly exploiting our declining marine resources.”

Ramos agreed that plastics and water pollution abound.

She said, “Sadly, the ecological dots are still to be connected, especially by the duty holders, the government, except for a few.”  

Ramos pointed out: “The call now is not to wait for duty holders to do the right thing. We have to be that society that we long to be and future generations deserve—less talk, more action—a mantra for all who still cares.”

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Russia Wants 'Family Guy' Banned Over 'Offensive' Depiction of Country

Family Guy has taken its funny moments too far according to one Russian official, who deemed a recent skit on the show as "deliberately offensive."

The backlash came after episodes 19 and 20 of the show's 21st season, "From Russia with Love" and "Adult Education." The characters Meg, Stewie and Brian go to Chelyabinsk, and in a two-parter, Meg decides to stay to start a relationship with Russian hacker Ivan. Loving her new surroundings, Meg sings a parody of Beauty and the Beast song "Belle" about the Russian city.

Family Guy Season 21 Russia

The use of stereotypes within the musical number has angered Chelyabinsk region deputy Yana Lantratova. Speaking to Russian publication Rise, she spoke out against the depiction of her city, and called for a ban of the adult cartoon in Russia.

"The artist has the right to his vision, but this is a deliberately offensive artistic image that has nothing to do with reality," Lantratova said. "This is a deliberate work against our country. Information warfare through artistic works. They deliberately create an image of Russia as a country where everyone is unhappy with life, drinking, using drugs, taking bribes."

Major Eastern European news outlet Nexta reported that Lantratova is calling for a ban on the show." The two-parter formed the Season 21 finale for the long-running Fox comedy.

State Duma deputies demand a ban on the "Family Guy" episode about the Russian city of Chelyabinsk "The artist has the right to his vision, but this is a deliberately offensive artistic image that has nothing to do with reality. This is a deliberate work against our country.… pic.twitter.com/2b5E0XzarN — NEXTA (@nexta_tv) May 9, 2023

While the singing voice used for the character of Meg Griffin in the skit appears to be different, Ukrainian-born actress Mila Kunis voices her usually. Outside of the song, Kunis showed off her ability to speak Russian in the role. Kunis and her husband Ashton Kutcher have both pledged their support to Ukraine in their ongoing war with Russia.

The depiction of Chelyabinsk, and the purported offensive nature of Family Guy, was discussed online. Sergej Sumlenny, an Eastern European expert with a strong Twitter following, suggested the animated representation of Chelyabink's surroundings was actually accurate in the episode, sharing what he claimed to be a picture of the real city.

no, but I have seen real Chelyabinsk, and this video is very authentic :) pic.twitter.com/N7OsOaDPqN — Sergej Sumlenny (@sumlenny) May 10, 2023

"I have seen real Chelyabinsk, and this video is very authentic," he wrote on Twitter. A number of other Twitter users shared images of the city of Chelyabinsk and made similar observations.

Others weighed in with similar thoughts. "Is this supposed to be Chelyabinsk or every Russian city outside Moscow and Saint Petersburg?" one Twitter user joked, getting hundreds of likes in doing so.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

About the writer

Jamie Burton is a Newsweek Senior TV and Film Reporter (Interviews) based in London, U.K. His focus is reporting on the latest in the world of entertainment and showbiz via interviews with celebrities and industry talent. Jamie has covered general news, world politics, finance and sports for the likes of the BBC, the Press Association and various commercial radio stations in the U.K. Jamie joined Newsweek in 2021 from the London-based Broadcast News Agency Entertainment News (7Digital) where he was the Film and TV Editor for four years. Jamie is an NCTJ-accredited journalist and graduated from Teesside University and the University of South Carolina. Languages: English.

You can get in touch with Jamie by emailing [email protected].

To read how Newsweek uses AI as a newsroom tool, Click here.

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