The state of world fisheries

The latest State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reveals that almost 30 per cent of the fish stocks monitored by FAO are overexploited.

This marks a slight decrease from the previous two years.  However, the report also states that about 57 per cent are fully exploited (i.e. at or very close to their maximum sustainable production), and only about 13 per cent are non-fully exploited.

Fisheries and aquaculture are the primary source of protein for 17 per cent of the world’s population and nearly a quarter in low-income food-deficit countries.

Árni M. Mathiesen, head of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, said: “Fisheries and aquaculture are making a vital contribution to global food security and economic growth. However, the sector faces an array of problems, including poor governance, weak fisheries management regimes, conflicts over the use of natural resources, the persistent use of poor fishery and aquaculture practices. And it is further undermined by a failure to incorporate the priorities and rights of small-scale fishing communities and the injustices relating to gender discrimination and child labour.”

Production growth from aquaculture keeps outpacing population growth, and it is one of the fastest-growing animal food-producing sectors – trends that are set to continue.

The report argues that strengthened governance and effective fisheries management are required. Promoting sustainable fishing and fish farming and fair tenure systems can provide incentives for wider ecosystem stewardship.

In Australian news, the Federal Government has formally proclaimed 44 marine reserves in a network now covering a third of Australia’s ocean territory. Australia’s peak marine conservation group, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), believes Australia “means business when it comes to protecting our oceans”.

“The government has bequeathed a legacy by setting in law the world’s largest network of marine reserves,” said Fiona Maxwell, AMCS Marine Campaigner.

“Australia has an ocean territory twice the size of our land… Our oceans provide us with food, oxygen and a place to work and play. (The recent) announcement will help us keep it that way,” said Ms Maxwell.

Places like the Coral Sea – the ‘jewel in crown of the reserve network’ – will now be safeguarded from damaging activities such as oil and gas exploration.

The Coral Sea is a global biodiversity hot spot, recognised for the number and diversity of large ocean predators such as sharks, tunas, marlin, swordfish and sailfish. Protecting this special part of Australia will provide a safe haven for marine life and a globally significant ocean legacy for generations to come.

Maxwell cautioned, “A national network of marine reserves has been in the making since the 1990s but the process is not quite over. The Government will soon be determining how they will manage these important marine areas and AMCS will be advocating improvements to zoning in a number of critical areas, adequate resources and best practices management and surveillance activities. In now developing management plans for the newly proclaimed reserves, the government needs to fully protect critical areas that have been left vulnerable to the impacts of mining and unsustainable fishing practices.”


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