University of British Columbia researchers have released a comprehensive estimate of the number of fisheries jobs around the world – including small-scale, artisanal operations that were previously not counted in official fisheries estimates.
Published in the current issue of the journal Fish and Fisheries, the UBC study shows there are approximately 260 million marine fisheries jobs worldwide, a figure 1.75 times greater than previous reports by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).
UBC fisheries economists Rashid Sumaila and Lydia Teh compiled a database on fisheries employment in 144 coastal nations. Out of the 260 million fisheries jobs, 50 million were involved directly in fishing – including commercial, small-scale or artisanal operations. Of these direct jobs, 22 million fishers were considered small-scale fishers, adding 40 per cent more jobs to previous estimates.
“This shows that there is a considerable ‘invisible workforce’ in the fisheries sector – made up of unlicensed fishers who catch fish for subsistence or to be sold locally – whose impact on the global fisheries hasn’t been counted,” says Rashid Sumaila, a fisheries economist and director of UBC’s Fisheries Centre.
“This can mean that we’ve underestimated the number of fish that are being taken out of the world’s oceans,” Sumaila adds. “It can also mean that we are underestimating the number of people whose livelihood and food security could be negatively impacted by the collapse of an unsustainable fish stock. Not to mention the impact this could have on local or global economies.”
In Canada, for example, the collapse of the cod fishery in 1992 led to changes in the social structure and dynamics of rural communities as the northern cod moratorium led to mass layoff of more than 10,000 fishery workers in Newfoundland.
The study shows that direct fishing jobs support 210 million workers in secondary industry employment – from canning, processing, trading and wholesale of catch to equipment repair and maintenance. It also shows fisheries employment is unevenly distributed around the world. The developing world makes up for 78 per cent of the world’s fishers. By continent, Asia accounts for 88 per cent of fishers globally, as well as almost 70 per cent of the world’s engine-powered fishing vessels.
Since the 1970s, the number of fishers in industrialized and traditionally fishing-heavy countries such as Japan and Norway has fallen by 60 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively.
“The gap in knowledge of the number of participants in fisheries is problematic because it impedes on decision making across all levels of fisheries resource management,” says Lydia Teh, a PhD student at UBC Fisheries Centre and lead author of the study. “Inaccurate projections of fishing effort can lead to management actions that have negative effects on fisheries stocks. Fisheries employment data are also important for assessing social and economic benefits that arise from fisheries.”
Around the world, nearly one billion people – or approximately 15 per cent of the global population – rely on fish as primary source of animal protein.
For more information and a graphic representation of the study’s key findings, visit http://pewenvironment.org/news-room/reports/marine-fisheries-employment-260-million-jobs-85899367201.
The paper is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-2979.2011.00450.x/abstract.