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Fishermen/Fish Farmers as Stewards of the Marine Environment

25 May 2012

Fishers and fish-farmers should, given the dependence of their businesses and livelihoods on ecosystem services, be stewards of the marine environment, according to the Green Economy report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Fishers and fish-farmers should, given the dependence of their businesses and livelihoods on ecosystem services, be stewards of the marine environment. Greening the isheries and aquaculture sectors requires the overall recognition of their wider societal roles – in particular that of small-scale operations for local economic growth, poverty reduction and food security – through a comprehensive governance framework managing externalities from and on the sector, implementing an ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture with fair and responsible tenure systems that foster stewardship and greater social inclusiveness, and integrating isheries and aquaculture into watershed and coastal area management, including through spatial planning.

The potential economic gain from reducing ishing capacity to an optimal level and restoring fish stocks is on the order of $50 billion per annum. Approximately 32 per cent of the global stocks are estimated to be overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion and a further 50 per cent to be fully exploited. Severe overishing, the loss of yield due to over-exploitation, is worsening food security and poverty.

Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector and future development prospects appear promising. While playing an important and not yet fully exploited role in supplementing capture production and creating new livelihood opportunities, aquaculture has – in some instances – caused socio-economic conlicts and added additional pressures on already sufering marine and coastal ecosystems.

Investment to reduce fossil energy use and thus the carbon footprint of fisheries and aquaculture has potential gains in terms of improved economic performance and in contributing to mitigating climate change.

The needed reductions in fishing capacity and efort in capture fisheries along with the adoption of green technologies can drastically lower fuel consumption and GHG emissions while greatly enhancing the fisheries sector’s contribution to economic growth, food and nutrition security and poverty reduction. Well-managed coastal aquaculture and mariculture ofer signiicant scope for green growth and employment opportunities for coastal communities at low levels of CO2 emissions when compared to other protein production systems.

Supporting development and investment in green technology and raising industry and consumer awareness on the sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture are key approaches to behavioural change and transition to green growth in fisheries and aquaculture.

Green technologies include low impact, fuel-eicient ishing methods; innovative multi-trophic aquaculture production systems using environmentally friendly feeds; reduced energy use and greener refrigeration technologies; and improved waste management in fish handling, processing and transportation.

The reduction of fishing efort and the use of non-destructive ishing techniques will reduce the negative impacts on biodiversity, including on larger, longer-lived marine organisms that are more vulnerable to depletion and structurally complex habitats such as coral reefs, which are easily damaged by indiscriminate ishing methods.

Strengthening regional isheries bodies, national fisheries management agencies, fishing community and fishworkers organisations and private sector associations is critical to sustainable and equitable use of marine resources. A strong international legislative and policy framework for fisheries is already in place with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its related international agreements and plans of action.

The social, economic and cultural dimensions of this framework will be further strengthened through the development of international guidelines on securing small-scale fisheries to complement the Code as called for by FAO’s Committee on Fisheries. The challenge is to provide incentives and adequate resources to implement this framework at the local, national and regional level.

May 2012

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