GAINESVILLE, Fla., May 7 (UPI) -- For most regulators and fisheries' managers, the goal is maximize both the ecological health of fish populations and the economic health of local fishermen.
While it's clear poor management, overfishing and pollution are bad for fishermen and related industries in the longterm, new research suggests what's good for fish populations isn't always good for local fishing economies.
The new study is one of the first to take an in-depth look at the interplay between ecological and economic health in fisheries management.
Conservationists, biologists, regulators and others already do a thorough job of measuring the health of most major fish populations. But gathering information on how conservation affects the health of local economies is a less apparent art.
"Our strategy was to develop a rapid assessment instrument that would organize the knowledge of local fishery experts to help us understand how harvesters and processors are performing economically and how the fishery is supporting its community," study co-author Chris Anderson, a food economist at the University of Washington, explained in a press release.
"Economically effective management, access to high-value markets and having other income opportunities often play a larger role in human outcomes than stock health, especially in communities where fishing is a large share of the economy," Anderson added.
Researchers sought knowledge from local experts to gather data on the economic health of major fisheries around the world. Collected data was synthesized to produce a single numerical measure of economic health. The same was down for ecological health. When the two numbers were compared, there were some surprising results.
While Alaska salmon are supremely health, from an ecological perspective, scoring a 4.88 out of 5, its market performance was a paltry 2.86 and a modest 3.40 in community performance. Conversely, so-called artisanal shrimp fisheries in Columbia are ecologically vulnerable, scoring just 2.25. But the shrimp provide a tremendous benefit to wallets of local fishermen, scoring an impressive 4.20 for its community impact.
"This highlights the importance of selecting development and management strategies that not only sustain stocks but also sustain industries and communities," Anderson said.
The researchers say they hope to further refine their work, so to hone in on what bother fisheries' managers and local governments can to ensure policies maximize both ecological and economic health.
"An overarching purpose is to be able to compare fisheries systems across species, management approaches and nations," said lead author James Anderson, a food economist at the University of Florida. "With our new metric, I would argue you can now compare fisheries systems in Ghana to those in Iceland."
Their work was published in the journal PLOS ONE.