Working Towards a Solution

"In summary, experimental results indicate robust positive linkages between biodiversity, productivity, and stability across trophic levels in maritime ecosystems.... Changes in marine biodiversity are directly caused by exploitation, pollution, and habitat destruction, or indirectly through climate change and related perturbations of ocean biochemistry" (Worm et al., 2006, 788)."
Photo from NOAA
Progress! A bleached coral reef recovers.

As members of Mission 2011, we plan to preserve global fisheries by ending overfishing, preserving marine ecosystems, and developing alternative measures to meet nutritional needs. In order to achieve these goals we will need to implement a multifaceted solution including improved management schemes, better technology, and a global education campaign.

The most important part of our solution is to stop over-fishing in all parts of the world and work towards the recovery of global fisheries. To accomplish this, we propose a two-step plan wherein national governments would set regulations in order to control the consumption of fish. The initial step would be to a system of fishing quotas to limit the number of fish taken from any important population, thus preventing collapse and eventually raising the population to more natural levels. We favor the use of individual transferable quotas (ITQs), because evidence shows they are more likely to be successful. The second stage would be regulation of global fisheries by variable taxes on fish that are taken. The hope is to eventually encourage a shift in economics that would encourage sustainable fishing. In general, we wish to advocate that all fisheries use management practices that effectively accomplish the goal of creating sustainable fisheries and take into account the full complexity of ecosystem.

To aid in our goal of creating and maintaining healthy, sustainable fisheries, we suggest the use of several additional strategies. We advocate the expansion of a non-governmental organization (NGO) program to certify fish as sustainably caught, and label them as such, so that concerned consumers would be able to make informed choices about which types of fish they should buy. We also advocate the development and use of fishing technologies that reduce by-catch, the banning of technologies that are highly destructive to the ocean ecosystem, and the further regulation of ocean pollution, especially from cruise ships. In countries that have the financial capability, we also advocate the use of GPS tracking systems on fishing boats to monitor fishing activity and enforce fishing regulations. We wish to end the subsidizing of unsustainable fishing and support providing financial assistance and advice to fishermen in order to help them transition to more environmentally friendly fishing methods. We will create more Marine Protected Areas, with the ultimate goal of setting aside a representative 10 percent of the global oceans as "no take" protected zones. This sample should be representative of all types of marine habitats, with emphasis on unique, fragile and threatened ecosystems. We will also minimize the harmful effects of humans on marine environments. This includes reductions of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as harmful practices such as dredging ocean floors.

Where possible, we believe that alternatives to capture fisheries should be found. We recognize that our plan will reduce the availability of food supplies; we also recognize that there is a serious debate over the merits of aquaculture. We conclude, however, that aquaculture may be necessary with the reductions in fishing that we propose; we therefore encourage the development of sustainable and environmentally friendly aquaculture facilities. We also endorse attempts, such as efforts to increase efficiency in agriculture, to find ecologically sound substitutes for fish as a nutritional source.

We believe it is important to educate the public about the crisis facing global fisheries and what can be done to resolve it. Informing the public about the fishery problem is an essential step to implementing the other aspects of our solution. An educated public will also increase pressure on governmental bodies to cooperate in the protection of ocean ecosystems. Although the UN and national governments will play a role in this, there is a great need for NGO participation in these education campaigns.

Finally, we recognize the need for additional research; not enough is known about fish and marine ecosystems. More research into the oceanic world will enable us to make better management decisions for the world's fisheries. Currently, there is a lack of research about fish physiology and migration patterns, and this information is essential to allow society to predict the potential impacts of various events and to gauge how close to sustainable current fish populations are. Large scale fish tracking programs are needed to give us more information about the migration, distribution, and behavior of fish. Reductions in the cost of fish tracking technology are necessary in order to achieve this goal. We also advocate monitoring of the ocean ecosystem to detect changes related to global climate change so that fishery management can be adjusted accordingly.

It is important to note that our plan is based on a semester's worth of research and will inevitably require modifications after feedback from initial implementation. Additionally, it will have to combat criticism that we favor fish over human interests. We believe, however, that having a healthy and sustainable marine ecosystem benefits both the sea and humanity.