US - Better management of the world's ocean resources is crucial to ensuring food global security, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said during a roundtable discussion with United States Secretary of State John Kerry.
The event, "Our Ocean: Next Steps on Sustainable Fishing and Marine Protected Areas", was organized as a follow-up to this week's UN climate summit and to take advantage of the presence of world leaders at the ongoing UN General Assembly.
Ten per cent of the world's population depends on fisheries for their livelihoods, and 4.3 billion people are reliant on fish for 15 per cent of their animal protein intake, Mr Graziano da Silva told participants.
He added that for small island development states, the contributions of ocean resources to nutrition, livelihoods, and development are especially significant.
Secretary Kerry emphasised that "we need to do a better job of protecting our ocean’s fish stocks, which play a critical role in economic security for millions of family and in food security for millions more."
According to the latest edition of FAO's The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report, the fisheries and aquaculture sector is facing major challenges, ranging from harmful fishing practices to weak governance and poor management to the scourge of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Beyond its negative effects on the status of fish stocks and the environment, IUU fishing brings with it very high monetary costs as well -- to the tune of $20 billion per year -- the FAO chief reported.
FAO is taking a number of steps together with partners to promote sustainable fisheries and combat illegal fishing, including working to promote adherence to the 2009 FAO Port State Measures Agreement and 2014 FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Flag State Performance and working with the with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to develop a Global Record of Fishing Vessels.
At the same time, the Organization has launched a new "Blue Growth" initiative which "has the potential to be a leading program on the major issues related to oceans and their resources," the Director-General said.
The blue economy model emphasizes conservation and sustainable management, based on the premise that healthy ocean ecosystems are more productive and represent the only way to ensure sustainable ocean-based economies. It also aims to ensure that small island developing states and developing world coastal states equitably benefit from their marine resources.
The shift to sustainable and responsible oceans and fisheries management cannot wait any longer, Mr Graziano da Silva told roundtable participants.
"We have the know-how, we have the opportunity. Now is the time to act," he said.
TheFishSite News Desk