High fuel prices – help to aquatic ecosystems?

Fuel protests triggered by rising oil prices have spread to more countries across Europe, with thousands of fishermen on strike.

BBC News

The coasts of Portugal, Spain and France are all at a halt as fuel prices have forced the fishermen to campaign for government subsidies to offset rising costs while wholesale fish prices have remained the same. Even if thousands of fishermen are currently facing impoverishment, the new economics of fishing may help the fish population and the industry to recover.

The absence of a full fleet of fishermen off the coast of western Europe could be a blessing for the fish population, depleted not only by humans but also by climate change. In 2001, the UN Food and Agriculture Administration estimated that 70% of global fish stocks are over fished or in danger in it. One can imagine how much worse it has gotten since then. In the same year, the EU released a report stating that “If it is to survive the Community fisheries sector will have to be significantly smaller than it is today.” The 300% rise in fuel prices may actually just be bringing about the inevitable, meaning that the Italian and Spanish governments are correct in refusing to subsidize the industry. In fact, one could make the argument that existing subsidies are what have caused the current problem in the waters.

By leaving the waters now, a complete ecological collapse could be prevented. The prohibitive high fuel prices would prevent fishing unless there is a high enough yield, preventing the overfishing seen in recent decades. These prices would behave much like an environmental tax, helping to correct a negative externality. In addition, the reduction in fish production in the very near future will also have the likely impact of raising fish prices, benefiting those who remain in the industry.

Needless to say, there will be many fishermen who will be facing tough challenges in the near future. The governments of Spain, France, Italy and Portugal should strongly consider assistance, but not in the form of further subsidies to the industry. Responding to, not fighting against, market forces is paramount to helping all sectors of society transition in the time of rising energy costs.

Overfishing is Drying Up Livelihood of Ports of Western Europe


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