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Preparing nets to fish on Lake Volta
Preparing nets to fish on Lake Volta

The contribution of inland fishery resources to food security is greatly underreported because of the dispersed and informal nature of many fisheries. For example, it has been observed that, in general, rivers produce about twice as much capture as is reported.

It has been stated that actual catches may be at least twice as high as submitted to FAO by inland fishing countries. And on the basis of anecdotal information from other sources, the underreporting could be even greater in many cases. For recreational fisheries only a small minority of countries approached by FAO have reported statistics.

Species and species groups

Some 11 500 fish species (41 percent of all fishes) are exclusively freshwater and about one percent are diadromous. Only about 100 fish species, or species groups, are listed in FAO statistics as making up inland capture. In this regard, the quantification of the importance of individual species and of species groups as inland fishery resources is severely handicapped by the lack of reporting at these levels. Overall, some 45 percent of inland catch is aggregated as "freshwater fish not elsewhere included" (nei), 7 percent "freshwater molluscs nei" and 6 percent is "crustaceans nei".

Relevance of fisheries information

The poor knowledge of the state of inland fishery resources is mainly due to the large number, dispersion, variety and dynamic nature of inland water bodies and to the diversity of their aquatic fauna. These factors contribute to fisheries that are numerous, complex and served by a wide variety of distribution and marketing systems. In turn, these characteristics mean that the collection of data is costly. Nevertheless, there is an urgent need to improve basic data gathering and reporting on inland food fisheries in quantifiable ecological and economic terms. Failure to do so can result in the following:

Fish demand and production are increasing in Asia
Fish demand and production are increasing in Asia
  • insufficient political justification by fishery administrations to invest in fishery management and to effectively protect inland fishery resources from degradation of the environment and loss of habitat; 
  • lack of awareness of policy makers in other sectors of the importance of inland fish and fishery resources to food security and income generation - consequently, reduced capability in the fisheries sector to compete for resources and for access to water;
  • interests and needs of inland fish producers, processors, transporters and marketers often ignored, or neglected, particularly at local levels; and
  • lack of a suitable knowledge base for dialogue and co-operation among countries sharing inland water fishery resources and having lake and river basins in common.

Not only does data collection need improvement but reporting should also be modified so that data, in the future, can be analyzed along watershed and eco-region lines as well as the administrative boundaries presently used. This amelioration is fundamental for an ecosystems approach to fisheries management and has the added advantage of facilitating integrated management of land and water resources among many sectors.

With the increasing use of geographical information systems, separating inland fisheries data by ecological and administrative criteria is not the daunting task that it would have been in the past.

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