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Inland Fisheries More Crucial to World Food Supply than First Thought

15 February 2016

US - Inland capture fisheries are much more crucial to global food security than realized, according to the first global review of the value of inland fish and fisheries.

The article, published in Environmental Reviews, showed that although aquaculture and inland capture fisheries contribute more than 40 percent of the world’s reported finfish production, their harvest is greatly under-reported and value is often-ignored.

Inland waters, which comprise about 0.01 per cent of the earth’s water, are lakes, rivers, streams, canals, reservoirs and other land-locked waters.

Topping the list of the value of inland fish and fisheries is food and economic security: these fisheries provide food for billions of people and livelihoods for millions worldwide. They are a primary animal protein consumed by many of the world’s rural poor, especially those in developing countries.

“Inland capture fisheries and aquaculture are fundamental to food security globally,” said Abigail Lynch, a fisheries research biologist with the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center.

“In many areas of the world, these fisheries are a last resort when primary income sources fail due to, for instance, economic shifts, war, natural disasters and water development projects.”

Inland fisheries, the review showed, support at least 21 million fishers, many of whom live in low-income countries and rely on these fisheries for both subsistence and their livelihood.

Other important benefits that inland fisheries and aquaculture provide include recreation, cultural and even spiritual values, and their contribution to species’ and ecosystem diversity. Because sustainable inland aquaculture is more efficient, it is also often “greener” than raising poultry, pigs or cows.

The authors cautioned, however, that inland fisheries are more important than current research is able to document because harvest amounts are vastly underestimated, particularly in remote areas and in developing countries. For example, only one-third of countries with inland fisheries submit catch statistics to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.

“The limitations to valuing the benefits that inland fish and fisheries provide make it difficult to incorporate them into resource planning on a national or global scale, author Carleton University’s Steve Cooke noted. “What is of great concern is that more than half of the inland fisheries’ habitat is moderately or highly threatened, so populations may be lost even before they are documented.”

The article, “The social, economic, and environmental importance of inland fish and fisheries,” was authored by Abigail Lynch, USGS; Steven Cooke, Carleton University; Andrew Deines, Michigan State University, and others.

 

 

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