Valuing the Unmarketable: An Ecological Approach to the Externalities Estimate in Fishing Activities
In a rapidly changing world, sustainability, if it can be said to exist at all, is concept that has attained mythic status, often pursued and rarely reached. In order to improve our capability to cope with environmental problems, adopting an Ecosystem Approach has been suggested. One of the major challenges in the implementation of this new paradigm relates to control of externalities. The recognition and quantification of externalities is often cast as valuing the unmarketable, and there are several approaches that have been proposed. Here, we analyze the opportunity to “feed” the economic valuation with ecological concepts. From an ecological perspective, the energy required to sustain a biomass unit at a given trophic level (TL) is the same, whatever the species. We build on this central tenet of ecology to assess the value of a TL unit for each trophic position using fish market data. The results obtained were then used to assign a value to each species living in a given habitat, together with consideration of their ecological role within the community. Estimates of both natural capital and functional value were applied to assess the ecological impacts of mechanical clam harvesting versus the multi-species artisanal fishery in the Venice lagoon. Results are discussed in relation to possible contribution to the implementation of a different management strategy.
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