Fishy business at IIED

The end of November was an exciting time for IIED’s Sustainable Markets Group, which launched two publications and an online network, all with a focus on sustainable fisheries. Grace Philip reports.

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Grace Philip
10 December 2013
A net full of cod

A net full of cod (Photo: Derek Keats, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

The action began early on 27 November with the publication of a study of a pioneering scheme that could boost stocks of a fish that feeds millions of people in Bangladesh, India and Myanmar.

The research describes how the government of Bangladesh has implemented a system to compensate fishing communities that act to conserve the threatened hilsa fish. The study recommends five ways to improve the scheme, and note that if it works in Bangladesh it would set an important precedent for direct payments to encourage sustainable fisheries elsewhere.

While newspaper readers across Bangladesh digested the local coverage of this study of their beloved fish, back in London IIED was preparing to welcome guests for an event billed as FishNight @ IIED.

Widening the net

The night began with the launch of FishNet. This is a new online platform, which IIED's Sustainable Markets Group has created to bring together people with an interest in sustainable fisheries.

The online platform enables users to share information and news. It also provides an opportunity to publish blog posts and photographs. Posts on the site cover topics that include EU sanctions aimed at addressing illegal fishing, and the role of Western banks in financing unsustainable fishing.

Getting incentives right

Next was the launch of Economic Incentives for Marine and Coastal Conservation, a book edited by Essam Yassin Mohammed – a researcher in the IIED's Sustainable Markets Group.  

Using examples from South and East Asia, Latin America and Australia, the book explores the prospects and challenges of 'Payment for Ecosystem Services' schemes and similar programmes that compensate individuals whose actions or behaviours conserve natural resources from which others benefit. "By providing economic incentives we can achieve both ecological and social objectives," said Dr Mohammed, in his presentation.

The examples in the book show that, to achieve success, these types of policy must be underpinned by robust research, clear property rights, sound governance structures, equitable benefit sharing and access to sustainable finance. 

Other speakers at the launch included Liz Carlile, IIED's director of Communications and Steve Bass, head of the Sustainable Markets Group. The keynote speaker was Phil Burgess from the Global Ocean Commission, who summarised in a sentence the challenge of governing the oceans in an equitable way: "Half of the world belongs to all of the world, and the benefits need to be shared fairly."

Professor Rashid Sumaila of the University of British Columbia, who wrote the book's foreword, sent the following video message. He contrasted the harmful incentives, in the form of subsidies, that encourage overfishing with economic policies that promote sustainable practices.

Looking forward…

It seems that fisheries will increasingly feature as a theme for IIED's Sustainable Markets Group in its effort to ensure that markets not only contribute to positive economic outcomes, but environmental and social ones too.

If you would like to keep up-to-date with the world of fisheries and sustainable development, as well as become a contributor yourself, visit the FishNet page on Facebook. Now that the triple launch is over, it's time to get on with the work.

Grace Philip is an intern in IIED's Sustainable Markets Group.