90% of global fish stocks now over-fished or fully fished, says UN

The Guardian reports, 7th July 2016: Global fish production is approaching its sustainable limit, with around 90% of the world’s stocks now fully or over-fished and a 17% increase in production forecast by 2025, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Over-exploitation of the planet’s fish has more than tripled since the 1970s, with 40% of popular species like tuna now being caught unsustainably, the UN FAO’s biannual State of the world’s fisheries report says.

Manuel Barange, the UN FAO’s fisheries director, told the Guardian that over-fishing rates of around 60% in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions were “particularly worrying”.

He said: “There is an absolute limit to what we can extract from the sea and it is possibly very close to current production levels, which have stabilised over last few years. They have grown a little in recent years but we don’t expect much more growth because of the rampant increase in aquaculture production.”

Aquaculture is now forecast to overtake wild-caught fish as the source of most fish consumption in 2021, for the first time.

The rise of aquaculture has also benefited trade, employment and diets in the developing world, with global per capita fish consumption estimated at a record 20 kilograms. “My personal view is that it is quite momentous to have reached this level of production,” Barange said. “In the struggle to make sure we have enough food to feed more than 9 billion people in 2050, any source of nutrients and micronutrients is welcome.”

Some campaign groups though fear that aquaculture may introduce invasive species, diseases and parasites. The potential for chemical pollution and use of transgenic species are also causes for concern, as are the impacts on wild fisheries and natural habitats.

Shrimp farming is thought to have led to the destruction of 3m hectares of coastal wetlands, including many mangrove forests, and the UN FAO is currently drawing up guidelines to reduce such environmental footprints.

Lasse Gustavssin, the director of Oceana, a marine conservation body, said that sustainable fisheries management should be prioritised instead. “We now have a fifth more of global fish stocks at worrying levels than we did in 2000. The global environmental impact of over-fishing is incalculable and the knock-on impact for coastal economies is simply too great for this to be swept under the rug any more.”

Of the world’s top 30 fish consuming nations, 22 were in the UN’s “low income, food deficit” category.

Twelve percent of the world’s population now relies directly or indirectly on the fisheries industry.

Note: To see the UN FAO Report, visit www.fao.org/3/a-i5555e.pdf

Source: The Guardian, 7th July 2016. For further details see
www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/07/global-fish-production-approaching-sustainable-limit-un-warns


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