Sustainable Fishing and Policy
July 07, 2015
Eating sustainably may be a low priority for many people. Most consumers are focused on finding the cheapest product for the best quality—and yet there are larger issues beyond price and quality that need to be taken into consideration when selecting food sources. The fishing industry is one supplier of food that builds a strong case for sustainability yet sustainable fishing is incredibly difficult to effectively put into place.
By Hannah Noyes, C’17
Sustainable finishing is a practice that guarantees that there will be populations of ocean and freshwater wildlife for years to come. While the average American is well aware of the so called global warming phenomena that has been making headlines, without practicing sustainable fishing, a large portion of our food source is in danger.
Demand for seafood and the development of new technology have led to fishing practices around the world that the environment cannot keep up with. Fishers remove more than 170 billion pounds of wildlife from the sea each year.  If the depletion continues at this pace, it will result in a collapse of the world’s fisheries. We need to adopt sustainable fishing practices if we would like to continue to rely on the ocean as a viable food source.
Habitat conservation is a cornerstone of ensuring sustainable fisheries for the future. Through the Sustainable Fisheries Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service has made great strides in identifying important habitats that need to be conserved, communicating and coordinating with federal agencies to prevent actions that may adversely affect those habitats. 
Economically, maximizing the number of fish caught at once results in an immediate financial payoff for fishermen. However, this is impossible to sustain in the long run as overfishing leads to low fish stock that cannot be replenished without intervention.
Sustainable fishers make economic sense. If managed correctly, the fishing industry can provide benefits to society such as food, revenue, and jobs.
Surprisingly, enforcement is not the most difficult aspect of ensuring sustainable fishing practices. Financing is the largest problem. In order for fishers to switch from destructive fishing to sustainable fishing they need to run losses for a few years to allow the stock to recover. While accepting harsh catch limits fisheries must simultaneously invest in new equipment to catch the right kind and size of fish. Borrowing can be a challenge because many fishers are heavily leveraged, and present poor credit risks. 
In 2014, investors set out to fix this problem. EKO Asset Management Partners announced a new financing approach called a Fisheries Impact Vehicle, or FIC. The plan brings together outside capitol with long-term purchase contracts from large retailers to provide the financing needed for fishers to make the transition from destructive practices to sustainable practices.
On June 24th, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that it had recommended a dozen Massachusetts-based marine research programs receive funding in 2015. They are among 88 programs nationwide that have been identified as good candidates to receive funding, totaling $25 million proposed dollars to make sustainable fishing feasible. The goal of these grants is to maximize job opportunities, increase the quality and quantity of domestic seafood, and improve knowledge of fisheries from U.S. Territories. 
The grants are funded by the Saltonstall-Kennedy (SK) Grant Program. It is the most significant amount of funding ever granted by NOAA. The goals of the SK program are to fund projects that address the needs of fishing communities, optimize economic benefits by building and maintaining sustainable fishers, and increase other opportunities to keep working waterfronts viable. 
Obviously our legislators have recognized the importance of oceans for our economy and its role in the lives of Americans. H.R. 415 (passed in the 106th Congress) established a National Ocean Day to “recognize the significant role the ocean plays in the lives of the Nation’s people and the important role the Nation’s people must play in the continued life of the ocean.” However, most of the major legislation passed is dated, and is being dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Most of the time, Congress acts too late, after species have become extinct.
Although there is definitely more of a push towards sustainability, additionally there needs to be legislature that protects our oceans. The lack of specific programs to target the entire U.S. is a disadvantage for us. Fishing is a global market, and sustainability is the first step in guaranteeing the longevity of the ocean as a source of industry. Without sustainable fishing, our oceans may only be viable for a short period of time.
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