High Seas Fishing as Economically Unsustainable as It Is Ecologically
By Carly Nairn
Five countries are responsible for the majority of fishing in the high seas—international waters that are not under one country's jurisdiction. All five depend on enormous subsidies to keep high seas fishing economically sustainable, concludes a study released Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.
Overfishing in the high seas is already ecologically unsustainable, said Enric Sala, executive director of the Pristine Seas project and the lead author of the study. But most fishing companies from China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Spain would not turn a profit at all if their governments didn't financially back the operations by providing tax breaks and paying for fuel, boat repair, insurance and equipment, and by subsidizing infrastructure like facilities for processing and distribution.
The study monitored fishing vessels in the high seas for two years and calculated loads, labor costs, fuel usage, and types of catches for more than 3,600 boats. "It's a little bit like the wild west," said Chris Costello, an economist with the Sustainable Fisheries Group. "No one has really estimated the cost before." Worldwide catches are estimated around 4.4 million tons a year, and by combining revenue, subsidy information, and the new tracking data, researchers were able to piece together a larger picture of the actual costs versus benefits of high seas fishing.
"It's really mind blowing," said Sala. "The subsidies are more than twice as large as the profits." The most economically unsustainable kind of fishing, the study found, was squid fishing by Chinese, Taiwanese and South Korean fleets off the coast of Japan and deep trawling near Chile and Argentina.
Collaborators on the project include the National Geographic Society; the Sustainable Fisheries Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Global Fishing Watch; the Sea Around Us project at the University of British Columbia; and the University of Western Australia.
And as it stands, Costello said, the industry is propping up and encouraging overfishing. While subsidy reform is important, so is regulating fish catch and monitoring vessels at the regional level. Reform is tough to achieve, however, Sala said, because of the political power of large agricultural lobbies, which don't want to see subsidies eliminated as it might set a precedent for other industries.
The subsidies are also hard to justify due to the idea that all countries are shared owners of the high seas. Currently, only 2 percent of the world's oceans are fully protected, which includes less than 1 percent in high seas areas.
In September, the United Nations will begin negotiations that could result in an agreement to protect the high seas from overfishing beginning in 2020; 141 of the 193 UN member states are in formal talks and would be signers of the treaty.
The ideal solution, Sala said, would be the creation of a giant reserve covering two-thirds of the world's oceans. That would guarantee population comebacks. A complete ban on fishing in the high seas is unlikely, Costello said. What's more likely will be an agreement to use multiple approaches to counter overfishing and hopefully keep the fishing industry from rendering itself obsolete.
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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