The Swedes Are Coming (or should be)

There’s one fact that our federal fisheries managers really don’t want to talk about, or even acknowledge.

It would upset their fish sales cart.

The long-ignored fact is that non-commercial fishing is actually far, far more valuable to society than is commercial fishing.

Of course, various studies have popped up here and there over the years to prove the immense value of recreational fishing, and we’ve done more than our share of screaming about it, but our government carefully avoids putting together really solid research on it. In essence, our bureaucrats and commercial fishing-influenced policy makers say: “We just don’t want to go there.”

But someone else just went there. Sweden.

Fiskeriverket to the rescue.

That’s the Swedish Fisheries Board, which has released a new report valuing the recreational fishing market in Sweden at 10 times more than the commercial sector. Sportfishing carries a socio-economic value of one billion kroner compared to 75 million kroner for commercial fishing, according to the report.

The number of jobs, moreover, is bigger in participation and support of non-commercial fishing. Potential for more growth exists but only if commercial fishing is reduced, the study concludes.

The Swedes want to cut market fishing by 30 percent and redirect (re-allocate in our parlance) parts of the commercial quota to recreational use.

What a breath of cool, fresh air from across the pond!

Surely, at some point soon, our own commercially tainted National Marine Fisheries Service will have to face the facts that non-commercial use of public wildlife provides the most benefits for the most people, including society as a whole.

The continuing mismanagement of grouper populations is the sorest of thumbs sticking in Florida’s face, based on long outdated percentages handed slavishly to market forces, linked to “historic” allocations that just don’t fit today’s fishing world.

We’d say that what’s best for the most, when a stock is overly pressured, is to limit the catches to be exactly equal for everyone, for Bill Gates or his yardman, and no fish goes to market until and unless there is abundant fishing for all on the general public level.

The easiest way to support this concept is to compute and compare the “ex-vessel” amounts of spending that goes in to putting a fish on the dock, either (one) to sell it or (two) for non-sale personal use.

Whenever this “economic rent” does get figured out for a fishery the result is just as the Fiskeriverket found, or even higher on the personal-use side of the equation.

But who wants to know these things over here?

Not our industry-cozy feds, I’m afraid.