FAO calls for sharp cut in fishing capacity to renew dwindling stocks

On the occasion of the opening of the prestigious EXPO '98 in Lisbon - the theme of which is "The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future" - FAO has repeated its warning that failure to change current fishing malpractices will leave us with a huge supply gap as early as the year 2010.

Calling once again for better management of marine fishery resources, the Organization stressed that, worldwide, fully exploited and overfished resources - which make up a staggering 60 to 70 percent of the global total - can only be preserved from declining further and rebuilt by a significant reduction of world fishing capacity of the order of 30 percent.

Serge Garcia, Director of FAO Fishery Resources Division, said, "In too many fisheries, management has failed to protect resources from being overexploited and fisheries from being economically inefficient". He specified lack of political will to make difficult changes as one of the root causes of this failure.

Landings by fishing area from all resources classified as overexploited or depleted in 1992 (Southeast Pacific excluded)

The catches of several marine fish stocks classified as overexploited peaked some 30 years ago, (see graphic), but commercial fishers are still using gear and techniques that oblige them to discard nearly 25 percent of annual marine catches - some 20 million tonnes of fish - as unwanted bycatch. This massive waste would be swiftly reduced by the use of more selective fishing techniques - one important requisite for better management of fisheries resources - and improved processing technologies

In developing countries, where fishing is often still an artisanal and labour-intensive activity, unsaleable bycatch is more likely to end up on the family dinner table than back in the sea.

Over the last decade, while marine catches have stagnated, increases in aquaculture production have kept pace with rising demand for food fish. But with demand of fish for human food projected to reach 100 to 120 million tonnes in 2010, aquaculture may not keep up and the supply gap could reach up to 40 million tonnes, according to FAO.

Fish production is an important element in world food security and in the global economy. Average per caput fish supply has almost doubled since 1950, when it stood at 8 kg, rising to 15 kg in 1996. The average consumption of fish protein has risen from 2.7 g per person per day in 1960, to 4.0 g today - about 15 percent of all animal protein consumed by the world's population of 6 billion people.

Capture fishery production made an estimated US$83 billion in 1995, while aquaculture production was worth US$43 billion. Global fishery exports for the same year were worth US$52 billion. The number of people depending on fishing for a livelihood is also rising. There were 13 million fishers and fish farmers in 1970. By 1995, the number was up to 30 million, about 90 percent of whom live in Asia. Worldwide, about 200 million people are estimated to depend on fisheries for their income.

The United Nations will present a demonstration version of a new electronic "Atlas of the Oceans" in the UN pavilion at EXPO '98, which opens in Lisbon . The atlas will integrate statistics, maps, texts, graphs and images on the sustainable use of the oceans. It is expected to be available on CD-ROM and on the Internet.

20 May 1998

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