The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Director General, Qu Dongyu has called for a renewed clear vision for the fisheries sector in the 21st century as the world fisheries are facing an important crossroad.
He disclosed this at the opening ceremony of the UN agency’s international symposium on Fisheries sustainability, holding in Rome, Italy, recently.
He stressed that, “With the world’s population to rise to nearly 10 billion by 2050, land alone will not feed us – we also need aquatic food production. But we need to do so without compromising the health of oceans and rivers, and while improving the social conditions of those dependent on fisheries – often the poorest in society.
“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 ten people depend on fishing to make a living and feed their families.
“But with the state of the oceans now a 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 ten some 40 years ago – whilst the growing demand for fresh water fish is affecting the sustainability of inland fisheries.”
The FAO said it has noted a dangerous trend – fisheries in developed regions were increasingly sustainable, rebuilding stocks and improving the conditions of those working in the sector, but fisheries in developing regions are not improving as fast.
“This is creating a dangerous sustainability divide. We need to reverse this trend if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” said the FAO chief.
In the technical keynote address of the symposium’s opening, FAO Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture Manuel Barange pointed out the following:
“While human population has been growing at 1.5 percent per year since 1960, animal protein consumption has grown at 2.5 percent, and fish consumption at 3 percent.
“In 2017, fisheries provided 173 million tons of fish products, 153 million for direct human consumption – a seven-fold increase from 1950.
“Fish products are one of the most traded food commodities, exceeding the trade of food from all land-based animals combined. In 2017, exports of fish products reached a record 156 billion dollars.
“From the mid-1970s, developing countries have increased their net trade benefits from fish from almost zero to over 40 billion dollars a year.
“Fish is particularly important in countries with food deficit. Of the top 30 fish consuming nations, 17 are Low Income Food Deficit countries, mainly in Africa, Asia and Oceania.
“Some 95 percent of people who rely on fisheries for their livelihoods live in Africa and Asia. The large majority of them are small-scale operators, struggling to make a living out of one of the toughest and most dangerous professions. In 2019, commercial fishing was rated the second deadliest profession on earth.
“The new frontier in the sector is to address the social dimension of fisheries value chains: from decent working conditions, human rights-based approaches, to access to health and social services, among others. We need to ensure social sustainability and social responsibility across fish value chains.”