Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture play a crucial role in food and nutrition security and in providing for the livelihoods of millions of people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) latest flagship publication on the state of fisheries and aquaculture.
The report, launched at the opening of the 30th session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries, highlights the sector’s vital contribution to the world’s well-being and prosperity, a point reflected in the recent Rio 20 Outcome Document.
The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012 reveals that the sector produced a record 128 million tonnes of fish for human food – an average of 18.4 kg per person – providing more than 4.3 billion people with about 15 percent of their animal protein intake. Fisheries and aquaculture are also a source of income for 55 million people.
“Fisheries and aquaculture play a vital role in the global, national and rural economy,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
“The livelihoods of 12 percent of the world’s population depend directly or indirectly on them. Fisheries and aquaculture give an important contribution to food security and nutrition. They are the primary source of protein for 17 percent of the world’s population and nearly a quarter in low-income food-deficit countries,” he said.
FAO is urging governments to make every effort to ensure sustainable fisheries around the world.
The report notes that many of the marine fish stocks monitored by FAO remain under great pressure.
According to the latest statistics available, almost 30 percent of these fish stocks are over-exploited – a slight decrease from the previous two years, about 57 percent are fully exploited (i.e. at or very close to their maximum sustainable production), and only about 13 percent are non-fully exploited.
“Over-exploitation not only causes negative ecological consequences, but it also reduces fish production, which leads to negative social and economic consequences,” the report says. “To increase the contribution of marine fisheries to the food security, economies and the well-being of coastal communities, effective management plans must be put in place to rebuild over-exploited stocks”.
The report argues that promoting sustainable fishing and fish farming can provide incentives for wider ecosystem stewardship and advocates enabling mechanisms such as the adoption of an ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture with fair and responsible tenure systems.