Does Climate Change Bolster the Case for Fishery Reform in Asia?

By Costello, Christopher | Asian Development Review, September 2018 | Go to article overview

Does Climate Change Bolster the Case for Fishery Reform in Asia?


Costello, Christopher, Asian Development Review


(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

I.Introduction

Global fisheries have diverged sharply over recent decades. High governance, wealthy economies have largely adopted output controls or various forms of catch shares, which has helped fisheries in these economies overcome inefficiencies arising from overfishing (Worm et al. 2009) and capital stuffing (Homans and Wilen 1997), and allowed them to turn the corner toward sustainability (Costello, Gaines, and Lynham 2008) and profitability (Costello et al. 2016). But the world's largest fishing region, Asia, has instead largely pursued open access and input controls, achieving less long-run fishery management success (World Bank 2017). Recent estimates show that many Asian fisheries continue to languish under outdated management regimes and could benefit from economically optimized fishery management systems such as catch shares. World Bank (2017) estimates that Asian fisheries lose $55 billion per year in inefficient management, which accounts for 65% of the estimated global loss of $85 billion. Figure 1 shows the potential gains from catch shares in the nine economies with the largest economic surplus, all of which are in Asia.

All of the aforementioned benefits of fishery reform were calculated assuming a stationary environment. Yet, climate change promises to dramatically alter the productivity and spatial distribution of most Asian fish stocks (Molinos et al. 2016). These climate-induced changes are expected to play out over the next 100 years or more, but are already starting to take hold. For example, range shifts have been noted in several of the world's oceans, coral bleaching appears to be accelerating, and the productivity of many stocks has sharply changed in recent years. These findings raise an important dilemma for Asian economies interested in the long-run sustainability, food security, and profitability of their fisheries: Should they aggressively pursue fishery management reforms in advance of the most serious predicted effects of climate change? Or does the prospect of climate change weaken the case for reforms such that aggressive reform is no longer necessary?

To shed light on this dilemma, I join newly available data on Asian fishery status with state-of-the-art climate forecasts and bioeconomic models. I largely draw on data and methods in Gaines et al. (2018), though that paper does not single out any results for Asian fisheries, nor does it ask whether the case for reform is strengthened or weakened under climate change. This allows me to conduct a species-by-species analysis for 193 species of the most widely harvested fish in Asia, representing about 29 million metric tons in fish catch.1

I begin by estimating biological status and trends for each of these species; this is accomplished by combining retrospective regression approaches (Costello et al. 2012) with dynamic structural models (Martell and Froese 2013). I then use these data as inputs into a bioeconomic model that estimates the potential benefits-in terms of fish conservation, fishery profit, and fish catch-from adopting economically efficient fishery management practices in Asia in the absence of climate change. Essentially, this involves comparing projected fishery performance under business-as-usual (BAU) management with fishery performance under economically optimized management.2 Results of that analysis largely corroborate previous findings. But because I am primarily interested in how climate change affects these calculations, I then couple to this analysis projections of climate effects on each of the species in my data set from Molinos et al. (2016). These climate models suggest that about 55% of Asian fisheries will experience reductions from climate change, and 29% will experience significant range shifts in the coming decades. By combining the fishery status, models, and climate effects, I can then estimate the potential benefits from adopting fishery management reforms in the face of climate change. …

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