Bycatch levies could reconcile trade-offs between blue growth and biodiversity conservation

Booth H, Arlidge WNS, Squires D, Milner-Gulland EJ (2021) Bycatch levies could reconcile trade-offs between blue growth and biodiversity conservation. Nat Ecol Evol 5:715–725.

Economic activities in the ocean (that is, the ‘blue economy’) provide value to society, yet also jeopardize marine ecosystems. For example, fisheries are an essential source of income and food security for billions of people, yet bycatch poses a major threat to marine biodiversity, creating trade-offs between economic growth and biodiversity conservation. This Perspective explores bycatch levies as a market-based instrument for reconciling these trade-offs. We outline the theory and practice of bycatch levies to demonstrate how they could incentivize bycatch prevention and raise revenue for compensatory conservation, provided they are well designed, as part of a policy mix for sustainable and equitable ocean governance. We then explore ways forward for mainstreaming bycatch levies into the blue economy. While compensatory bycatch mitigation has been controversial, increasing adoption of net outcome approaches to biodiversity conservation suggests they could become mainstreamed within the next decade. Bycatch levies could raise billions of dollars towards closing global biodiversity financing gaps, delivering net outcomes for biodiversity under the United Nations Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework while enabling blue growth, and moving towards win–wins for economic welfare and biodiversity conservation.