Illicit trade in marine fish catch and its effects on ecosystems and people worldwide

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is widespread; it is therefore likely that illicit trade in marine fish catch is also common worldwide. We combine ecological-economic databases to estimate the magnitude of illicit trade in marine fish catch and its impacts on people. Globally, between 8 and 14 million metric tons of unreported catches are potentially traded illicitly yearly, suggesting gross revenues of US$9 to US$17 billion associated with these catches. Estimated loss in annual economic impact due to the diversion of fish from the legitimate trade system is US$26 to US$50 billion, while losses to countries’ tax revenues are between US$2 and US$4 billion. Country-by-country estimates of these losses are provided in the Supplementary Materials. We find substantial likely economic effects of illicit trade in marine fish catch, suggesting that bold policies and actions by both public and private actors are needed to curb this illicit trade.

A protocol for the intercomparison of marine fishery and ecosystem models: Fish-MIP v1.0

Model intercomparison studies in the climate and Earth sciences communities have been crucial to building credibility and coherence for future projections. They have quantified variability among models, spurred model development, contrasted within- and among-model uncertainty, assessed model fits to historical data, and provided ensemble projections of future change under specified scenarios. Given the speed and magnitude of anthropogenic change in the marine environment and the consequent effects on food security, biodiversity, marine industries, and society, the time is ripe for similar comparisons among models of fisheries and marine ecosystems. Here, we describe the Fisheries and Marine Ecosystem Model Intercomparison Project protocol version 1.0 (Fish-MIP v1.0), part of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISIMIP), which is a cross-sectoral network of climate impact modellers. Given the complexity of the marine ecosystem, this class of models has substantial heterogeneity of purpose, scope, theoretical underpinning, processes considered, parameterizations, resolution (grain size), and spatial extent. This heterogeneity reflects the lack of a unified understanding of the marine ecosystem and implies that the assemblage of all models is more likely to include a greater number of relevant processes than any single model. The current Fish-MIP protocol is designed to allow these heterogeneous models to be forced with common Earth System Model (ESM) Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) outputs under prescribed scenarios for historic (from the 1950s) and future (to 2100) time periods; it will be adapted to CMIP phase 6 (CMIP6) in future iterations. It also describes a standardized set of outputs for each participating Fish-MIP model to produce. This enables the broad characterization of differences between and uncertainties within models and projections when assessing climate and fisheries impacts on marine ecosystems and the services they provide. The systematic generation, collation, and comparison of results from Fish-MIP will inform an understanding of the range of plausible changes in marine ecosystems and improve our capacity to define and convey the strengths and weaknesses of model-based advice on future states of marine ecosystems and fisheries. Ultimately, Fish-MIP represents a step towards bringing together the marine ecosystem modelling community to produce consistent ensemble medium- and long-term projections of marine ecosystems.

Future marine ecosystem drivers, biodiversity, and fisheries maximum catch potential in Pacific Island countries and territories under climate change.

The increase in anthropogenic CO2 emissions over the last century has modified oceanic conditions, affecting marine ecosystems and the goods and services that they provide to society. Pacific Island countries and territories are highly vulnerable to these changes because of their strong dependence on ocean resources, high level of exposure to climate effects, and low adaptive capacity. Projections of mid-to-late 21st century changes in sea surface temperature (SST), dissolved oxygen, pH, and net primary productivity (NPP) were synthesized across the tropical Western Pacific under strong climate mitigation and business-as-usual scenarios. These projections were used to model impacts on marine biodiversity and potential fisheries catches. Results were consistent across three climate models, indicating that SST will rise by ≥ 3 °C, surface dissolved oxygen will decline by ≥ 0.01 ml L−1, pH will drop by ≥ 0.3, and NPP will decrease by 0.5 g m−2 d−1 across much of the region by 2100 under the business-as-usual scenario. These changes were associated with rates of local species extinction of > 50% in many regions as fishes and invertebrates decreased in abundance or migrated to regions with conditions more suitable to their bio-climate envelope. Maximum potential catch (MCP) was projected to decrease by > 50% across many areas, with the largest impacts in the western Pacific warm pool. Climate change scenarios that included strong mitigation resulted in substantial reductions of MCP losses, with the area where MCP losses exceeded 50% reduced from 74.4% of the region under business-as-usual to 36.0% of the region under the strong mitigation scenario.

Global change in the trophic functioning of marine food webs.

The development of fisheries in the oceans, and other human drivers such as climate warming, have led to changes in species abundance, assemblages, trophic interactions, and ultimately in the functioning of marine food webs. Here, using a trophodynamic approach and global databases of catches and life history traits of marine species, we tested the hypothesis that anthropogenic ecological impacts may have led to changes in the global parameters defining the transfers of biomass within the food web. First, we developed two indicators to assess such changes: the Time Cumulated Indicator (TCI) measuring the residence time of biomass within the food web, and the Efficiency Cumulated Indicator (ECI) quantifying the fraction of secondary production reaching the top of the trophic chain. Then, we assessed, at the large marine ecosystem scale, the worldwide change of these two indicators over the 1950–2010 time-periods. Global trends were identified and cluster analyses were used to characterize the variability of trends between ecosystems. Results showed that the most common pattern over the study period is a global decrease in TCI, while the ECI indicator tends to increase. Thus, changes in species assemblages would induce faster and apparently more efficient biomass transfers in marine food webs. Results also suggested that the main driver of change over that period had been the large increase in fishing pressure. The largest changes occurred in ecosystems where ‘fishing down the marine food web’ are most intensive.

Opportunity for marine fisheries reform in China.

China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, launched in March 2016, provides a sound policy platform for the protection of marine ecosystems and the restoration of capture fisheries within China’s exclusive economic zone. What distinguishes China among many other countries striving for marine fisheries reform is its size—accounting for almost one-fifth of global catch volume—and the unique cultural context of its economic and resource management. In this paper, we trace the history of Chinese government priorities, policies, and outcomes related to marine fisheries since the 1978 Economic Reform, and examine how the current leadership’s agenda for “ecological civilization” could successfully transform marine resource management in the coming years. We show how China, like many other countries, has experienced a decline in the average trophic level of its capture fisheries during the past few decades, and how its policy design, implementation, and enforcement have influenced the status of its wild fish stocks. To reverse the trend in declining fish stocks, the government is introducing a series of new programs for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, with greater traceability and accountability in marine resource management and area controls on coastal development. As impressive as these new plans are on paper, we conclude that serious institutional reforms will be needed to achieve a true paradigm shift in marine fisheries management in China. In particular, we recommend new institutions for science-based fisheries management, secure fishing access, policy consistency across provinces, educational programs for fisheries managers, and increasing public access to scientific data.

What is at stake? Status and threats to South China Sea marine fisheries.

Governance of South China Sea (SCS) fisheries remains weak despite acknowledgement of their widespread overexploitation for the past few decades. This review incorporates unreported fish catches to provide an improved baseline of the current status and societal contribution of SCS marine fisheries, so that the socio-economic and ecological consequences of continued fisheries unsustainability may be understood. Potential fisheries contribution to food and livelihoods include 11-17 million t in fisheries catch and USD 12-22 × 109in fisheries landed value annually in the 2000s, and close to 3 million jobs. However, overfishing has resulted in biodiversity and habitat loss, and altered ecosystem trophic structures to a ‘fished down’ state. The present situation reiterates the urgency for fisheries policies that simultaneously address multiple political, social, economic, and biological dimensions at regional, national, and local scales. Importantly, improved cooperation between SCS nations, particularly in overcoming territorial disputes, is essential for effective regional fisheries governance.