To help the world's troubled oceans, deeper problems must be addressed
Poverty and hunger hinder efforts to promote sustainable use of marine resources, FAO says
5 May 2004, Rome/Vancouver -- Conservation of the world's oceans can only be achieved if larger problems of poverty, hunger and underdevelopment are adequately addressed, according to an FAO presentation given at the Fourth World Fisheries Congress in Vancouver, Canada.
Some 1,500 delegates from 80 different countries are attending the event, which wraps up May 6th.
"Millions of people depend on fishing for food and employment -- especially in the world's poorest countries," Kevern Cochrane, an FAO senior fisheries officer, told the Congress.
"Implementing stronger conservation measures and more sustainable fishing practices in these areas hinges on addressing the root causes of poverty and food insecurity there."
Wherever people are heavily dependent on fish and fisheries resources for their livelihoods, lifestyles or both, any perceived threats to their access to those resources -- such as stronger conservation measures -- are likely to be met by resistance, he noted.
"In the cases of many developing countries where there are no social-service safety nets and no alternative sources of livelihoods, the reactions will be an even greater, and justified, sense of insecurity and an even greater desire to retain the status quo," added Cochrane.
FAO figures show that net revenues from fish trade (exports minus imports) by developing countries recently reached US$17.7 billion -- a figure larger than that earned from their exports of tea, rice, cocoa and coffee combined.
Still, UN and FAO statistics show that 1.2 billion people worldwide survive on just $1US a day while 842 million go without enough to eat each day -- many of them in the developing world.
Globally, reports FAO, 25 percent of major marine fish stocks are underexploited or moderately exploited. Forty-seven percent are fully exploited and are therefore producing catches that have reached, or are very close to, their maximum sustainable limits. Another 18 percent of stocks or species groups are overexploited, while 10 percent of stocks have become significantly depleted, or are recovering from depletion.
Improving this situation and achieving a sustainable global fisheries sector is possible using existing strategies and plans, such as the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, Cochrane told the Congress -- but doing so requires that the international community effectively address underlying problems of poverty, hunger, and underdevelopment.
"Piecemeal solutions to ocean management seem inevitably doomed to failure, and lasting, global reconciliation of marine resource use and conservation will only be possible if these prerequisites are in place," said Cochrane.
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53168
e-mail this article