Gland, Switzerland – A report released by the UN’s independent food expert, Olivier De Schutter – “Fisheries and the Right to Food” – highlights the devastating impacts of industrial overfishing on coastal communities, small-scale fishers, the marine environment, and the right to food of millions.
“Yet again we have an authoritative report which shows us that overfishing and the damaging effects of poorly managed fisheries is seriously impacting vulnerable communities’ food security and livelihoods,” said John Tanzer, Marine Director, WWF International.
“The fact that the number of boats and fishermen has increased eight-fold between 1970 and 1990, yet they are not seeing anything like the equivalent increase in catch numbers speaks volumes about the consequences of overfishing and the effects this will have on food security in the near future.”
“Yet we are still seeing relatively wealthy governments putting public funds into subsidizing boat building and industrial fishing activities. It makes no sense because we are essentially mining the oceans instead of nurturing their capacity to support people’s ongoing needs.” he said.
Fish accounts for 15 per cent of the animal protein consumed worldwide, over 20 per cent in Asia and the fishing sector provides over 54 million people with jobs. In developing countries, many of these jobs are as small-scale fisheries employing a high proportion of women.
Weak governance and capacity gaps mean the current approaches to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing are failing. The lack of investigation and prosecution of irresponsible distant water fleets by the flag states also contributes to this.
Coastal communities are limited in their contribution to reduce overfishing or IUU fishing without adequate social protection, fair prices and having fair access to fish resources. The report points out the importance of sound management and early and ongoing involvement of local artisanal fishers’ in the management of local fisheries and the need to support them in maintaining improved market access for their catch.
Increased globalization of the fishing industry has meant in 2010 the value of traded fish products was estimated at US $ 102 billion, up from US $ 8 billion in 1976. Many developing countries have benefited from this increase in the form of export revenue and state revenue from selling access to their fishing ground to distant water fleets.
“Without any safeguards and in the absence of effective fisheries management, these access agreements could prove harmful to local communities in the form of loss of fish for people, especially in places where food shortages occur,” said Alfred Schumm, Leader of WWF’s global Smart Fishing Initiative.