The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture has changed its appearance – and we in the FAO Fisheries Department hope you agree that it is a change for the better. However, the way we present our view of the state of world fisheries and aquaculture remains almost unchanged. As in previous issues, the report begins by providing an overview of developments in world fisheries and aquaculture, followed by a review of issues confronting fishers and fish farmers, and a presentation of seven in-depth studies undertaken by FAO. The report concludes with some thoughts on the future of fisheries and aquaculture, from both short-term and longer-term perspectives.
Developments during the past two years confirm the trends already observed at the end of the 1990s: capture fisheries production is stagnating, aquaculture output is expanding and there are growing concerns with regard to the livelihoods of fishers and the sustainability of commercial catches and the aquatic ecosystems from which they are extracted. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2004 reports on several of these issues.
It is not only fishers and fish farmers who have these concerns; they are increasingly shared by civil society at large. Moreover, the importance of international trade in fish and fish products, combined with the trend for major fishing and trading companies to operate on a multinational basis, means that such issues are becoming global in nature – affecting a growing number of countries, be they large fish producers or large consumers of fish. It is heartening to note that governments and other stakeholders have begun to collaborate with their neighbours and partners in trade in an effort to find shared solutions.
Concrete examples of positive outcomes of this “globalization of concerns” are the establishment of new regional fishery management organizations and the strengthening of existing ones. It is probable that ongoing discussions among intergovernmental organizations on topics such as trade in endangered aquatic species, the use of subsidies in the fishing industry, and labour standards in fisheries will also result in agreements of overall benefit to world society.
Given the nature and tone of the international discussion on fishery issues and the developments observed during recent years, I believe that fishers and fish farmers, in collaboration with governments and other stakeholders, will overcome the obstacles they face currently and will succeed in ensuring sustainable fisheries and continued supplies of food fish at least at their present levels.
FAO Fisheries Department