Fishing for Poverty - Sailors for the Sea

Fishing for Poverty

By: Special report from the World Bank | February 11, 2016

Alleviation and Conservation

The World Bank is working with fishing communities and investors to protect and increase the value of the fish stocks upon which they depend for their livelihoods. Communities in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa depend heavily on catch-and-release recreational fishing to “have their cake and eat it too” by using and at the same time preserving healthy fish ecosystems.

What is the True Value of Recreational Fishing?

Recreational fishing has the potential to significantly stimulate economic development with minimal impact on fish stocks and other natural resources. Present in 76% of the world’s exclusive economic zones (Mora et al. 2009), estimates for the number of recreational fishers worldwide vary between 220 and 700 million (FAO 2012, World Bank 2012). The World Bank estimates that these fishers spend approximately $190 billion annually, contributing about $70 billion per year to global GDP, not counting large revenue streams for fishing tackle. In 2009, US recreational fishing expenditures contributed to the economy $50 billion in sales impacts and $23 billion in value added impacts on a harvested catch of 100,000 tons ($624 per lb) compared to $116 billion in sales impacts and $48 billion in value added impacts on a catch of 4 million tons ($21 per lb) from commercial capture fisheries (NOAA 2011). Foreign anglers visiting Costa Rica in 2008 generated 2.13% of that nation’s GDP, $279 million in new capital (compared to $16.6 million from the commercial capture fishery), and 63,000 jobs. Fifty years ago, Cabo San Lucas on the Baja Peninsula of Mexico was a poor village supported by a single tuna cannery. Today, Cabo San Lucas hosts 350,000 foreign anglers annually, who leave behind approximately $1,800 each. These new dollars contribute $652 million to GDP, up to 24,000 jobs and $245 million in tax revenues (Southwick et al. 2010). In Panama, recreational fishers spend $97 million annually, generating $170 million in business-to-business sales within Panama and $3.1 million in new tax revenues, contributing $48.4 million to GDP ($562 per visiting angler) and supporting 9,500 Panamanian jobs.

In addition, participation in recreational fishing creates one of the strongest social and political constituencies for environmental education and conservation of aquatic resources. Conservation is innate within recreational fishing, as recreational anglers have a vested interest in conserving the aquatic resources upon which they depend. Recreational anglers work proactively to conserve and enhance these resources both indirectly by voting for clean waters, and directly by supporting environmental legislation and financing fisheries management. Catch and release fishing is on the rise. After Oregon’s Diamond Lake trout population crashed in the face of the introduction of a non-native species, the sport fishing community lobbied for and partly financed a $6.2 million restoration. Not only is the quality of the fishing related to the ability of local ecosystems to produce fish, but fishing is a holistic experience that incorporates nature and that has generated its own artistic genre and literature. H.D. Thoreau once noted: “Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not the fish they are after.”

Making Recreational Fishing Work for Development

In any given country, the magnitude of the economic multiplier that translates dollars spent by sport fishers into local economic development depends heavily on the degree to which local businesses can supply relevant goods and services. In the US, for every dollar spent on recreational fishing leads to $2.60 in overall GDP growth. Multipliers in studied least developed countries range from $.90 to $1.90, leaving significant room for improvement. Boat and motor construction and repair; bait and tackle supply and maintenance; construction and servicing of marinas, docks and buildings; vehicles, fuel and transportation infrastructure; airline and airport services; restaurants and lodging; souvenirs and curios; and guiding are among the numerous local economic opportunities created by the sport fishing industry. In addition, recreational fishing adds to mixed activity vacation venues attracting tourists and families with multiple interests.

Individual sport fishing businesses succeed on the basis of the quality of the fishable resource, the quality of the ancillary experience of nature, accessibility (including visas and logistical information), security, comfort and well-directed marketing that matches the venue to the needs of various types of fisher. Good business plans are crucial.

Equally important is a stable working arrangement with the communities who share access to the terrestrial and aquatic resources upon which a successful sport fishing venture ultimately depends. Examples of successful negotiations between sport and commercial capture fisheries can be found in Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Cuba. For example, the Guatemala Sport Fishing Association and the Club Nautico de Guatemala worked with commercial fishermen in the local communities to construct a series of artificial reefs to create an inshore fishery for local income and food security while reducing pressure on off-shore billfish of interest to sport fishing tourists. In Cayo Largo, an island off the south coast of Cuba, local fishers elected to allocate the entire inshore fishery to recreational use, and have devised spatial planning and enforcement measures designed to ensure the long-term health of the fishery and the entirely local businesses that depend upon it.

To capture the conservation benefits of recreational fishing, local participation is critical. It is often those who take up the sport in their youth and witness first-hand how fisheries change with environmental deterioration who become the greatest advocates for wise stewardship. Globally, a growing and better-educated middle class is becoming increasingly aware of the ecological consequences of unrestrained development, and sport fishers, fishing clubs and lobbying groups are often at the forefront of these movements.

Habitat is Critical

Habitat health needs to be at the core of any effort to develop recreational fisheries. Healthy habitat is not only essential for a healthy fishery, but is also an essential part of the fishing experience. Most fish species either have small home ranges that allow for specific conservation area delineations, known and predictable movements/migrations that allow spatiotemporal conservation measures, or a combination. By protecting the habitats required by the different life stages of sport fish, habitats also important to other species (that might also be economically important) are also protected. Although not necessarily small in spatial scale, conservation areas appropriate for coastal fisheries are finite and can be addressed with reasonable conservation measures, compared to open ocean fisheries. 

A Profitable and Sustainable Industry

Recreational anglers first started coming to the Bahamas in the 1930s. The first bonefishing lodge, the Bang Bang Club, opened on Andros Island in the 1940s. The industry grew steadily and today there are more than 50 bonefishing lodges and more than 200 guides in the Bahamas (Fedler 2010).

The contribution of recreational bonefishing to the Bahamian economy is considerable. Approximately 10% of the 1.4 million visitors to the Bahamas in 2008 participated in recreational angling while on their trip. In 2009, the height of the global recession, bonefish anglers spent $69,828,893 on angling related activities in the Bahamas, with a total economic impact (direct plus indirect expenditures) of $141,054,364. While bonefishing only made up 3.3% of total direct tourism expenditures in 2009, it accounted for 9% of tourism expenditures on the family islands (all islands excluding Nassau/Paradise Island and Grand Bahama) and as much as 81.2% of direct tourism expenditures on Andros Island. Direct expenditures of bonefish anglers supported the equivalent of 2,500 full-time jobs in 2009; in a country with a labor force of fewer than 200,000 people. A survey of guides in 2009 indicated that there were 221 active bonefishing guides in the country who had guided between 5 and 300 days in the previous 12 months for a total of 28,696 days of guided fishing for bonefish.

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