Today we celebrate World Oceans Day, recognizing the major role oceans have in everyday life. Oceans regulate the climate, supply food for millions of people, produce oxygen, are home to a wide array of wildlife, and provide countless recreational opportunities. But there is some bad news. Fisheries are being depleted, endangered species are at risk, and water is polluted.
Fortunately, there’s lots of good news. PERC scholars have researched how property rights and markets can improve ocean health for over 35 years. From sea to sea, enviropreneurs are harnessing property rights and markets to solve the problems facing our oceans.
Enviropreneur Institute alumni worked to establish tenure-based programs for transferable quotas of fish. Their uses property rights to restore depleted fish populations. Eric Schwaab, former assistant Administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, worked to align private profits with public interests, embedded marine tenure access rights in national policy, and boosted future prospects of fishers and fish.
Daylin Muñoz-Nuñez has coordinated solutions for key fisheries in Mexico, Belize, and Cuba. She also advanced the tri-national collaborative management of shark fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, using market-based tools modeled after catch shares.
Jingjie Chu works to customize rights-based fishing and catch-share systems to local cultures and histories in underdeveloped communities in Vietnam, China, and Myanmar.
The efforts of enviropreneurs utilizing property rights to revive fisheries are paying off. PERC Impact Fellow Kent Strauss looked at the future of fisheries in the 2015 paper Global fishery prospects under contrasting management regimes. His research sampled more than 4,500 fisheries around the world, exploring how different types of fishery management impacted fish populations. He found that when fishery management is reformed to incorporate access rights, fishery recovery can happen quickly, with the median fishery taking under ten years to reach recovery targets.
The efforts of enviropreneurs have also protected endangered ocean species. Angela Smith and her colleagues at Shark Team One provide conservation, research, and citizen science expeditions around the world to where sharks are on the verge of extinction. Smith has found that when local economies benefit from shark tourism, it provides the incentive to shift from fishing sharks to conserving them.
The enviropreneurs at Paso Pacifico are turning turtle poachers into turtle protectors. In Nicaragua, the eggs of endangered sea turtles are poached and sold on the black market. The non-governmental organization negotiates with would-be poachers to leave nests intact, and several of Paso Pacifico’s turtle protection rangers were once poachers themselves. Their work helps thousands of baby turtles reach the sea each year.
Discarded plastics pollute the oceans, harming marine animals and water quality. Saltwater Brewery, a Florida craft beer maker, took note of the harm plastic six-pack rings were doing to the ocean and developed a biodegradable substitute made out of barley and wheat leftover from the beer making process. If used widely, the biodegradable rings could reduce the harmful impacts of plastics on ocean ecosystems.
For cleaning up plastics already in the ocean, creators at Seabin have designed a floating garbage can that automatically collects waste from the surrounding water. The floating bins are connected to a water pump on shore that pulls water through the bin, using a natural fiber bag to filter out the waste. The clean water is then pumped back into the ocean and the bag of waste can be easily disposed of.
As we observe World Oceans Day, it is important to celebrate the enviropreneurs working to keep our oceans clean and healthy. These innovators are creating the tools through which we can replace rhetoric with results, protecting the vast oceanic ecosystems. PERC has long been a supporter of these efforts and the valuable outcomes they produce. This World Oceans Day, join us in creating a culture of environmental entrepreneurship to ensure our oceans are conserved long into the future.