Introducing CPD’s first major Sustainable Economy Report:
Our oceans are often out of sight, but that doesn’t mean they should be out of mind. Australia is surrounded by a vast wealth of oceans. We have the world’s third largest marine estate. We have the highest marine biodiversity in the world. Our marine economy supports thousands of regional jobs through commercial fishing, marine tourism and recreational fishing. Yet official accounts record only a fraction of the real, long-term value of our oceans.
In a ground-breaking new report, CPD’s Sustainable Economy program reveals a shortfall in our official accounts of $25 billion per year. Our oceans contribute at least this much to the national economy in ecosystem services – such as carbon storage, fish nursery services and recreational fishing – free of charge.
Stocking Up: Securing Our Marine Economy is the first in a series of reports that will look at how different sectors of Australia’s economy can benefit from policies to preserve the environment and resources that sustain them.
In a national first, Stocking Up assesses the economic value of Australia’s oceans and finds:
- Our oceans provide an unrecognised $25 billion in value every year to our national economy – billions of dollars that are currently unaccounted for in official statistics.
- The value of sustainably managed Australian fisheries could increase by 42% over 20 years if global fish stocks collapse.
Stocking Up fills a gap between the scientific knowledge of our oceans and the poor understanding of the economic and social value they provide, showing how we can secure marine jobs today and in the future by maintaining the value of the assets that these jobs rely on.
The report measures essential ecosystems services provided ‘free of charge’ by our oceans, such as:
- $15.8 billion a year in carbon storage. Seagrasses store 10 to 40 times as much carbon per hectare as forests. Australia’s seagrass meadows are the largest in the world.
- $6.2 billion a year in fish nursery services, pest and disease control. These services are crucial for our commercial fishing industry.
- $1.85 billion per year in fish and recreation enjoyed by the 1 in 5 Australians who go fishing at least once a year
Stocking Up recommends five simple measures to secure our marine resources for all Australians; support long-term jobs in commercial fishing and marine tourism; and provide better catches for recreational fishers:
- Protect the assets that underpin our marine estate – We must treat our marine estate as a portfolio of valuable ecological assets. We need to balance our investment portfolio across a well-managed commercial fishing estate; marine protected areas and highly protected areas.
- Rebuild fish stocks – We need to take better care of fish stocks to reduce the risk of collapse. While management measures for our Commonwealth fisheries provide a strong foundation for reducing over-fishing, 42 per cent of our fisheries remain in an over-fished or unknown state.
- Ensure all commercial fisheries are sustainably managed – We need to adjust economic incentives to avoid poverty traps for commercial fishers and loss of resources for tourism and recreation. Around half of Commonwealth fisheries are currently struggling to cope with economic pressure from rising fuel prices, a high Australian dollar and increased competition.
- Establish baseline data for recreational catch and biomass in undisturbed ecosystems – We need better information to avoid sudden collapse of ecosystems. While our knowledge of many commercial fisheries has improved, we don’t have enough information on recreational catch and on how marine ecosystems function to manage multiple pressures well.
- Support local communities through marketing and business innovation – We need innovations in marketing and business models to help local economies find opportunities from changing market demand and resource availability
As global fish stocks decline and the risk of ecosystem collapse grows worldwide, Australia can still take action to secure the third largest and most diverse marine estate in the world. This would support long-term jobs for commercial fishers, secure marine resources for tourism development, and provide better catches for recreational fishers.
In Stocking Up we’ve brought common-sense thinking to the question of how we can develop a thriving marine economy over the long term. It’s not a trivial question.
As the world heads into challenging times, Australia must make smart and informed decisions about how to navigate the waters ahead. These decisions need to be driven by the value of our oceans and the people who rely on them, not by politics.