No matter what happens at the polls today, the ocean and the fish that live in it will still require our attention and conservation efforts. With all the politics and rhetoric circulating throughout the media, the fact that oceans and other vital ecosystems provide invaluable resources and benefits to the billions of people on this planet tends to go unnoticed. Even worse, there is a tendency to paint the environment as a partisan issue, when regardless of your political beliefs—ensuring we have a healthy natural world is essential to your survival and happiness for the future.
The oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and contain 97% of the world’s water. An estimated 20,000 species of marine fish swim beneath the largely unexplored waters, along with complex plant and animal life including coral reefs, sea grasses, whales and sharks. Billions of people globally depend on fish as their primary source of protein, and the economic value of fishing for their livelihood. Many of these people live in poor, undeveloped countries and will rely more heavily on the ocean as populations increase and global warming impacts their ability to cultivate food on land. The reality of our global dependence on the ecosystem services that the ocean provides becomes more evident with studies such one which recently came out in Science, citing that 80% of the world’s un-assessed fisheries are in worse shape than previously thought. But there is hope if we act now to align the right incentives and increase the economic value of fisheries, while putting fishermen at the forefront of conservation. Ensuring that the world’s fish stocks are replenished is a human imperative, not a political talking point.
In fact, the world needs to look forward towards international collaboration between governments, NGOs and the private sector to ensure that the oceans are conserved for future generations. The World Bank’s Global Partnership for Oceans is one such initiative that has real potential to change the course of overfishing by bringing together diverse stakeholders and leveraging the global changes that need to happen while we still have time.
We are proud to be a part of this partnership and believe that catch shares, a fisheries management tool which aligns economic and environmental incentives while empowering fishermen to be active stewards of the ocean, are a critical piece of a global solution to overfishing. We have already made great progress in the United States, where almost two thirds of fish caught in our waters are sustainably managed under a catch share. Remember the big picture today, and no matter who you vote for, understand that conserving our natural resources should not be a partisan issue. A healthy ocean thriving with fish is in everyone’s best interest.