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Press Release 98/31

 

FAO: FUTURE OF FISH FOR FOOD DEPENDS ON BETTER MANAGEMENT OF OCEANS

 

 


 

Rome/Lisbon, 19 May -- Despite increases in aquaculture, future demand for fish products cannot be met in the absence of better management of the world's ocean resources, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned today.

By 2010 production shortfall between demand and supply for human consumption could amount to 10 to 40 million tonnes, FAO said on the occasion of the opening of EXPO '98 in Lisbon. The EXPO's theme is "The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future".

The demand for food fish is estimated at 110 to 120 million tonnes for the year 2010, compared to food fish production for 1996 of about 90 million tonnes, with almost 30 percent derived from aquaculture, according to FAO.

"Although the problems of fishery management are now widely recognised and new international instruments such as the UN Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries were adopted in 1995, fisheries management has generally failed to protect resources from being overexploited and fisheries from being economically inefficient", said Serge Garcia, Director of the FAO Fishery Resources Division.

As for the main reasons for this failure, he specified lack of political will to make difficult adjustments particularly regarding the access to fishery resources and fishing rights, persistence of direct and indirect subsidies, lack of control on fleets by flag states, success of industry lobbies in resisting changes, lack of participation particularly of traditional fishing communities.

FAO underlined the important contribution of fish production to food supply and the economy. Global fish production has grown impressively, almost doubling average per caput food fish supply from 8 kg in 1950 to 15 kg in 1996. The average consumption of fish protein has risen from 2.7g per caput per day in 1960 to 4.0g today, representing around 15 percent of all animal protein consumed by the world's population of six billion people.

Sales of capture fishery production were worth an estimated $83 billion in 1995, aquaculture production was worth a further $42 billion. Exports of fishery products world-wide were worth $52 billion in 1995.

The number of fishers and fish farmers more than doubled in the last 25 years, increasing from 13 million in 1970 to 30 million in 1995, over 90 percent of them in Asia, while the number of people dependent on fisheries as an income has been estimated at 200 million world-wide.

In the last decade, however, capture fishery production for both food and non-food utilisation has been levelling off. The increase in food fish production in recent years has been entirely due to aquaculture. Per caput food fish supply has actually declined during the last decade and prices increased, FAO said.

World-wide, 60-70 percent of the stocks require urgent intervention to control or reduce fishing to avoid further decline of fully exploited and overfished resources and to rebuild depleted stocks.

The Atlantic and Pacific Ocean are already heavily exploited, many resources are overfished and some still offer limited scope for development, according to FAO. Further fisheries expansion may be possible in the Indian Ocean. "There are very few underexploited resources left, and some (e.g. krill) may not be commercially viable," Garcia said. The Mediterranean is apparently fully fished but productivity might be increasing due to organic pollution.

If marine fishery resources were better managed, the fishery potential could reach 93 million tonnes, a gain of about 10 million tonnes from the present, FAO estimated. This comprises four million tonnes from improved management in each of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and two million tonnes from further development in the Indian Ocean. "The benefits of effective management could be high, of the order of 10-20 percent of the present landings with a value of over $80 billion," Garcia said.

A better management should include more selective gears and fishing practices to reduce unwanted bycatch. Every year about 20 million tonnes of fish are discarded by commercial fisheries.

FAO estimated that a drastic reduction of at least 30 percent of world fishing capacity is needed to rebuild overfished resources.

The United Nations will present a demonstration version of a new electronic "Atlas of the Oceans" in the UN pavilion in Lisbon. The Atlas will integrate statistics, maps, texts, graphs and images on the sustainable use of the oceans. It was produced by several UN agencies and will be finally accessible through Internet and on CD-ROM.

 

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