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Sustainable fishing aids economies, communities, global study shows

By Alisson Clark for UF News

Environmentally sustainable fishing practices are often cast as a choice between healthy fish populations and healthy economies and societies. A new global study led by University of Florida scientists shows that, when managed well, ecologically sound fisheries boost profits and benefit communities.

Using a database of 121 fisheries on every continent, the researchers evaluated relationships between the three pillars of sustainability defined by the United Nations: economic development, social development and environmental protection. Their findings were published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“With fisheries, there are often perceived to be trade-offs between those pillars,” said Frank Asche, a professor in the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. With good reason: Plenty of case studies document that profits can drive overfishing, or that regulation can hurt fishing communities. But Asche and his co-authors argue that those examples don’t point to the impossibility of managing fisheries in a way that benefits all three goals — just a flawed approach to management.

“Those case studies are most likely correct, all of them,” Asche said. “But when you find trade-offs, you have to look for the problem that is causing them, because around the world, enough people are getting this right. If you create a trade-off, something in the design of your management system doesn’t work.”

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