Plenty more fish in the sea?
Great news in the Guardian this morning that the EU is to end the incredibly wasteful practice of fish discards. This is the situation where fishermen could catch however many fish they want, but can only land a certain number, so the rest are thrown back – usually dead. This is worse than landing them where at least they would be put to good use – and would offset other food production.
The story illustrates a number of important points:
- The power of perverse incentives – fisherman are currently encouraged to be wasteful;
- The risk of unintended consequences – the landing quota was introduced to try and protect fish stocks but has arguably made the situation worse;
- The stultifying effect of institutional inertia – everybody has known discarding fish is a problem, yet it has taken decades to actually do anything.
These are three potential pitfalls that all of us in the sustainability world come up against some time or other, whether in communities, organisations or in international policy. Watch out for them!