Science and Environment

FAO reports dangerous trend in fishing industry

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star

MANILA,Philippines — Sustainable fishing is staying afloat in developed regions but sinking in poorer regions, the United Nations agriculture agency has warned.

Noting a dangerous trend in the fishing industry, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) director general Qu Dongyu said that while fisheries in developed regions are increasingly sustainable, meaning fished populations are being replenished and conditions for industry workers are improving, developing regions are lagging.

“This is creating a dangerous sustainability divide. We need to reverse this trend if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” Dongyu said.

He said fisheries are facing an important crossroads and the world needs a new vision for fisheries in the 21st century.

With the world’s population to rise to nearly 10 billion by 2050, Dongyu explained the need to increasingly rely on aquatic species to eat as “land alone will not feed us.”

But this should be done without compromising the health of oceans and rivers, while improving the social conditions of those dependent on fisheries – often the poorest in society, stressed the FAO director-general.

Worldwide, one billion people rely on fish as their main source of animal protein, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and in some small island states, people meet their protein needs exclusively from seafood.

Millions of people worldwide depend on fish for food and for their livelihoods. A person gets 20.3 kilograms (average per capita figure) of top-quality protein and essential micronutrients from fish every year. Globally, over one in 10 people depend on fishing to make a living and feed their families.  

But the state of the oceans is of grave concern due to plastic pollution, the impacts of climate change, habitat degradation and overfishing. One in every three marine fish stocks is overfished – compared to just one in 10 some 40 years ago – while the growing demand for fresh water fish is affecting the sustainability of inland fisheries.

Some 95 percent of people hinging on seafood for their livelihoods live in Africa and Asia, many struggling to make ends meet despite the degree of danger involved in the work. Commercial fishing was rated the second deadliest profession on Earth in 2019.

The FAO director-general put forward three solutions to guide fisheries toward sustainability, including re-investing in marine and freshwater sustainability programs, investing in ocean growth, and ensuring protection measures are met with effective management. 

The International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability, taking place from Nov. 18 to 21 at FAO’s Rome headquarters, convenes researchers, business people and members of various sectors to identify how to maximize food from the world’s rivers and oceans, without compromising the health of aquatic ecosystems.



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