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Press Release 99/16

INLAND FISHERIES ARE UNDER INCREASING THREAT FROM ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION


Rome, 24 March - Freshwater fish, a major source of food and protein, is increasingly threatened worldwide by environmental degradation, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement released today.

More than 7.7 million tonnes of fish were caught in lakes, rivers, swamps, marshes, water reservoirs and ponds in 1997, according to preliminary FAO estimates. That is around 6 percent of the total global fish production of 122 million tonnes. Yields may be much higher since data from subsistence fisheries are greatly under-reported. Catches are highest in China, with a production of nearly 1.8 million tonnes. Recreational fisheries are economically important in Europe and North America.

Most inland fish is consumed locally, marketed domestically, and often contributes to the subsistence and livelihood of poor people. It contributes significantly to animal protein supplies in many rural areas.

"Industrialization, urbanization, deforestation, mining, and agricultural land and water use often cause degradation of aquatic environments, which is the greatest threat to inland fish production," according to FAO. "Fishery resources are being affected by destruction and fragmentation of aquatic habitats, aquatic pollution, due to the release of industrial and urban effluents and run-off of agro-chemicals, impoundment and channelization of water bodies, excessive water abstraction or diversion, soil erosion and manipulation of hydrological characteristics of rivers, lakes and flood plains."

Land and forest degradation, loss of biodiversity, scarcity and pollution of freshwater are all increasing in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean. Europe and and the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic States are also experiencing increasing biodiversity loss and habitat degradation. Pressures on Asian watersheds are intensifying, which causes concern because they correspond to the most important areas of inland fish production globally.

Many policy makers in other sectors are not aware of the importance of inland fish production for food supplies and income generation, FAO said. Most inland fish producers suffer from the absence or inadequacy of rights and institutional support. It is difficult for them to obtain credit, information, training and extension, according to FAO.

FAO recommended that inland fisheries should be better integrated into water and land management.

At community level fish production could be enhanced, for example, through periodic stocking of natural and artificial water reservoirs. Most reservoirs are not used for fish production.

At farm level, there are many opportunities to combine different types of fish farming and livestock production. Using wastewater, fish production in small-scale irrigation schemes and fish farming in rice fields, could also enhance fish production.

At state and national level, environmental and fishery agencies should work together to prevent and reverse environmental degradation and to rehabilitate aquatic habitats. Fishers and fisheries administrators should participate in policy and decision making over allocation and use of water and land resources.

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For more information please contact:

Erwin Northoff
Media Officer
tel: 0039 06 57053105
fax:0039 06 5705 3699
e-mail: erwin.northoff@fao.org

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