The High Seas

In its legal definition, the high seas is the water 200 nautical-miles off shore. This is effectively the last frontier when it comes to no mans’ land, leaving the fisherman and fish at the mercy of each other and the elements. There is no regulation on how many or the methods used to catch the fish.

Yesterday, I saw a video from New Scientist about the high seas and how the banning of fishing in that area would actually lead to healthier coastal fisheries.


Christopher Costello of UC Santa Barbara was one of the first to try to puzzle out the problem. He found that his models suggest that a ban on high seas fishing would allow seafood populations to recover, causing them to spill out into coastal areas, as noted by the New Scientist. In essence, the increase in fish caught would rise by more than 30 percent and double profits.

Currently, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Spain account for almost half of all high seas fishing, which unsurprisingly detracts from the poorer nations, whose water have been deprived of prize migratory fish, like tuna, due to this nations’ deep sea trawlers.

As noted in the article, “if a ban were to boost migratory species by 42 per cent, Costello found that 135 countries and territories (mainly developing nations) would enjoy a net gain, seven would experience no change and 50 would lose out. In particular, South Korea and Taiwan would suffer losses of over $500 million each.

Needless to say this is a cool, but most likely unpopular idea. To me it seems brilliant.

Even the local fisheries on Cape Cod, fishermen have to travel days out to get their catch. As a fishery, it is in the government’s interest to import fish (taxable $$$) rather than buy local, so by forcing migratory fish inland one would hope that investment in local fisheries, fisheries that even been around for decades, would improve.

I believe that a large disparity when it comes to conservation is the economic consequences it could have on others. More often than not, people feel that conservationists are overlooking their livelihoods just for the benefit of the planet, when ultimately it could be destroying a community.

These numbers clearly show that such a ban on high sea fishing would invest in local fisheries, help migratory fish populations recover, and give the poorest nations globally a better chance at economic competition.

Photo by (cc).

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