A more efficient and effective future

07 May 2015
Modern technology is ensuring fishing fleets around the world are as efficient as possible

Modern technology is ensuring fishing fleets around the world are as efficient as possible

Adrian Tatum reports in the importance of efficient and effective fishing.

While sustainability has been driving changes in the fishing industry around the world over the last decade the need to become more efficient and effective is becoming more and more important.

A long time ago, commercial fishing was just about catching fish and landing it. And that was it. Today’s modern industry is very different, and so are the demands of the market and the end user. Sustainability has remained more of a ‘buzz word’ around the globe and is now ingrained in every fishing fleet across the world. But a number of external factors such as fuel prices, changes to quotas and fish prices, to name just a few, mean that above all else fishing fleets are being forced to become more efficient and more effective if they want to survive in an industry that is becoming more competitive by the day.

Fishing nations have taken on these challenges by implementing a number of different measures. But the biggest hurdle is actually assessing how efficient you are in the first place.

The US is taking the efficiency agenda seriously. Commercial fishing contributes approximately $90 billion annually to the US economy and there are over 1.5 million jobs in the industry (and related industries) as a result. But like many countries, management practices over the years has lead to inefficient fishing practices that threaten both the economic and ecological sustainability of US fisheries, according to a new research paper: Tomorrow’s Catch: A Proposal to Strengthen the Economic Sustainability of U.S. Fisheries Wild fisheries in U.S by economist, Christopher Costello.

The paper discusses new opportunities for improving the economic prosperity and long-term sustainability of the US fishing industry. It challenges the industry to make changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, thus requiring that fisheries should meet certain criteria and to undertake a comparison of the economic, social and ecological trade-offs between status quo management and alternative management and alternative management structures, including catch shares.

Catch shares
The paper says the ‘catch share’ approach could be widely adopted in the future. It says catch shares will give fishing communities a greater stake in the sustainability of fisheries, thereby preventing their depletion and building long-term economic prosperity.

Drawing on a growing body of empirical evidence, Mr Costello observes that catch shares eliminate the economically wasteful race to fish that threatens other fishery management approaches. By dramatically lengthening the fishing season, catch shares can lead to gains in long-term employment, significant improvements in safety for fishermen, and improved availability of fresh fish for consumers. Finally, by allowing fishermen to trade their catch share rights among themselves, this property-rights approach would encourage the most efficient fishermen to participate in the market, leading to lower costs and higher profits for fishing communities, the paper says.

The paper goes on to make a very important point. It says that the inefficiency of fishery management systems that are not property-rights driven arises from two basic sources. Fisheries are overexploited when fishermen have little stake in the future productivity of the resource, it says.

Overfishing, of course, has negative consequences for conservation. But even if one cares only about the economic prosperity of the fishing industry, conventional management often leads to inefficiently small resource stocks, and thus to lower profits, adds the paper.

Catch shares produce three mechanisms that drive economic prosperity. First, they promote the efficient use of economic inputs, lowering the cost of fishing, often by 30-50%. Second, they improve the quality and value of the product by dramatically extending the season length, which typically raises prices by 10-40%, because fish are sold on the fresh, not frozen, market. Third, they encourage the efficient management of fish stocks, increasing harvest over time and reducing fishery collapse, the paper goes on to say.

Catch shares have increased economic efficiency in the British Columbia halibut fishery and have improved long-run conservation measures in New Zealand through increased asset prices. In the Gulf of Mexico’s red snapper fishery, the aggregate economic benefits of catch shares ranged from a two-fold increase in economic surplus to a ten-fold increase in market capitalisation, according to the paper.

Elsewhere, the drive from the EU to make fishing more efficient is part of overall plans to drive the sustainability agenda which forms the new revised Common Fisheries Policy. The EU has an on-going aim to reduce the amount of fuel used by fishing fleets.

Fuel
According to the EU, fishing is one of the most energy-intensive food production methods in the world. In 2000, the world’s fleets were responsible for approximately 1.2% of the total global fuel consumption, equating to 0.67 litres of fuel per Kg of live fish and shellfish landed. In 2008, the EU fleet alone consumed 3.7 billion litres of fuel. But in the past decade fuel prices have also increased by an average of 80% while fisheries production has declined. An on-going project is considering two main types of technical solutions to increase efficiency involving fishing gears and techniques and onboard propulsion and energy.

There has also been the introduction of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, which is the new fund for the EU’s maritime and fisheries policy for 2014-2020, and is the successor to the European Fisheries Fund (EFF). It aims to help fishermen with the transition to sustainable fishing and adjust to the requirements of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. It aims to: allow member states to carry out effective data collection and enforcement; make it easier for fishermen to access finance; finance projects that deliver economic growth; and support coastal communities in diversifying their economies.

The need to increase efficiency onboard is also still high on the agenda for fishing fleet owners. Technology has played a huge role in this. It has not only made processing onboard and on-land more efficient and effective - it has replaced the need to rely on heavily skilled labour. A recent customer of processing specialist, Marel, makes exactly that point when referring to the purchase of the company’s new FleXicut-advanced grading and product distribution system.

“This is an important step towards more advanced technology and greater automation in a process that otherwise requires greatly skilled labour which is very difficult to find,” said Jon Edvald Fridriksson, chief executive of Fisk Seafood.

Elsewhere, BAADER has announced that long-term partner Northbay Pelagic has ordered 17 pelagic processing machines and a TRIO FDS 55 Skinner, which is just one example to emphasis the demand for new technology to drive efficiency around the world.

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Marel

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