Ecological Economics for Burgeoning Sustainability

  Can Ecological Economics achieve burgeoning sustainability for local fishing communities in Ireland?  

 Ecological Economics

It is now fashionable to try and understand economics from an ecological perspective. Ecological economics sees commerce as a sub set of the ecological system where man made assets need to be balanced by natural living assets.

Economic and Ecological resources

The global ecological system provides all the resources available to the economic system. Take fossil fuels as an example. They were all laid down by biological processes many years ago. Understand the significance of this and it is easier to appreciate our dependency on the natural world. Our food our water and climate all depend on a healthy biodiverse ecological systems that evolved over thousands and millions of years. Our economic system ultimately depends on the same healthy ecosystem. 

Pollution ecological and economic consequences

An article in the Marine Times ( Nov., Strong Reaction to Report of eutrophication in Irish Waters, November) illustrated how local eco systems can be negatively affected by economic systems. Hypoxia and Anoxia, the result of pollution, create dead zones for natural life. When such zones prevent the natural environment from assimilating or recycling the waste products of economic activity (pollution) there is a net destruction of valuable natural living assets. As a consequence both ecological and economic value reduces.

Human capital in balance with natural capital

Ecological economics demands that man made capital tied up in banks and modern economies is balanced with the natural living assets provided for by the ecological system. Those within the fishing industry know this intuitively but generally in society decisions are made to gratify commercial needs which to often overlook the needs of ecosystems. Biodiversity and natural living assets are the natural capital and fabric of healthy ecosystems and therefore a healthy economic system.

Can ecological Economics provide a solution to discards?

No one likes to see valuable fish being discarded. It is a waste of a natural living asset. It has been suggested that all discards should be marketed. Focusing on taking everything from fishing zones needs to be carefully examined to determine the risk to biodiversity. Ecosystems need to flourish and produce the value added species, eg Cod, Bass, Salmon Pollock Mackerel Herring, Lobster, Plaice, Turbot, Monkfish to name a few. The improvements in technology and innovation that facilitate selective catching will contribute to better ecological economics. There is however a risk that marketing total by-catch could lead to industrial fishing that would undermine ecological economics and biodiversity.


The opportunity exists, despite a recession, to urgently ensure that sensible decisions are taken to create sustainability of natural living assets such as abundant future fish stocks. If these assets disappear then the very economic system that they support will also disappear, possibly for ever but certainly until nature adjusts.

As was indicated in the November and December issues of this paper there is opportunity now if initiative, imagination and I would add hope, come together. Fishermen need to be assured that there is a future for them and their families. Alternative, non fishing jobs also require natural resources to be viable. Good common sense decision making which embraces a general sense of environmental stewardship and ecological economics is the only sustainable way forward.

Imagination, Innovation, Initiative and support

The demise of the Irish fishing industry is often blamed on the EU, CFP, Eurocratic decision making and lack of a fair sense of equity. There have been many articles on the lack of Irish Government support including recent cuts by BIM as discussed in this newspaper. What can Ireland’s industry do to gain a greater share of the natural living asset in her surrounding seas? The answer is to solve the problem of sustainability and to ensure that the value of the future is protected. Then Ireland needs to win the arguments at a European level and benefit from greater allocation of quota as a reward for building up greater future value and biodiverse fish stocks.

 Ecological Economics for the future

If Ireland invests in developing fisheries sustainably then she deserves to have a greater equitable share of the stocks around her seas. Each member of the fishing community has a responsibility to build a better future by enhancing future value of their own natural living assets. The local coastal communities need support to achieve these aims and if we collectively succeed in achieving sustainability that then we can look towards a better future in a modern world where ecological economics is the norm.

Yours sincerely

Brendan Kerr

Natural Living Assets

3 Greenridge Park

BT19 6AN

0044 (0) 7852 685 584

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