Today fish products provide
people with almost 20 percent of their average per capita intake of animal protein.
Plus, fish products provide a further
people with about 15 percent of their per capita intake of animal protein.
The International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability, held in Rome in November 2019, supported the development of a new vision for sustainable and socially just fisheries, resilient to the changes of the twenty-first century.
The symposium managed to gather an exceptional, diverse group of participants from different sectors and regions around the world. Moreover, a set of recommendations emerged from the sessions´ discussions that will help improve the sustainability of capture fisheries and progress towards the different targets and objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In places where fisheries management is not in place, or is ineffective, the status of fish stocks is poor and deteriorating. Although 78.7 percent of all landings of marine fisheries come from biologically sustainable stocks, the unequal progress in fisheries management highlights the urgent need to replicate and re-adapt successful policies.
These recommendations are expected to be applicable in the medium to long term, but also to address times of crisis like the one we are living now with COVID-19. Now more than ever, it is critical that we build resilient and sustainable food systems that leave no one behind.
This digital report summarizes some of the main discussion points, key facts and main outputs from the symposium.
The world population will reach 8.5 billion by 2030.
Annual fish consumption is predicted to exceed 21.5 kg per capita by 2030.
World fish consumption as food is projected to increase more than 18% by 2030.
Since 1961 the annual global growth in fish consumption has been twice as high as population growth, demonstrating that the sustainability of fisheries resources is crucial for a world without hunger and malnutrition.
However, there is a decreasing overall trend in the proportion of marine fish stocks caught within biologically sustainable levels, especially in the least developed regions. At the same time, inland fisheries are profoundly affected by the growing demand for fresh water fish.
Let’s examine the ways we can strengthen the science and policy interplay in fisheries production, management and trade, based on solid sustainability principles for improved global outcomes on the ground.
Following the International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability, a number of emerging cross-cutting messages and recommendations that are relevant for both inland and marine capture fisheries were considered.
The development of joint integrated biodiversity and food security objectives is required to ensure that aquatic foods can reach those that need it most now, and in the future, reducing undesirable impacts and food waste and addressing malnutrition and hunger.
Communication on fisheries issues needs to be largely improved. In particular, there is a need to change the narrative on fisheries, putting the emphasis on its uniqueness and importance as food production system, and leveraging it as vehicle to empower fisherfolk.
Reducing and eliminating harmful practices that may lead to overcapacity, overfishing, and/or IUU fishing are important means for sustainability.
Gender equality and equity with support to the younger generations must be improved. Proactive mechanisms for this include elevating the role of women in decision making; engagement of youth; focused capacity building actions; gender statistics; sex- and age- disaggregated data.
Capacity building, in particular aimed at data collection and analysis and improving countries ability to better assess and monitor their fisheries continue to be needed.
Political will should be sought and capacity to improve implementation of existing policy frameworks should be strengthened. Policy innovations in the sector are required to address emerging challenges such as climate change, and the increasing demand of fish and fish products.
There is a strong need to integrate fisheries into broader planning and governance frameworks that bring multiple sectors together and facilitate the implementation of evidence-based assessment and management.
Livelihoods, well-being and decent work must be considered more explicitly in fisheries management, including by increased stakeholder involvement and secured rights and access.
Globally, the fraction of fish stocks that are within biologically sustainable levels has shown a decreasing trend, from 90 percent in 1974 to 65.8 percent in 2017.
Although some developed countries/regions have rebuilt overfished stocks and largely eliminated overfishing, some developing countries face a worsening situation in terms of overcapacity, production per unit of effort and resource sustainability.
FAO´s initiative for monitoring the state of the world’s fish stocks is the most authoritative and comprehensive analysis at the regional and global level. It covers about 70 percent of global marine landings and about 400 species/stocks.
However, there is currently no equivalent initiative to monitor the state of inland fisheries, limiting our ability to understand and to estimate the sustainability status of inland capture fisheries around the world.
Fisheries information and knowledge, when based on best available science and traditional, local, indigenous and women knowledge and validated by relevant stakeholders, will support the development of effective policies and enhance the capacity of countries and regions to manage stocks sustainably.
Promote assessment and monitoring of individual stocks and improve transparency at the stock and country level to better understand the status of fisheries at relevant geographical scales.
Encourage the development and implementation of simpler stock assessment methods that require less-detailed data and less technical expertise to reduce the proportion of unassessed stocks around the globe.
Improve the monitoring of inland fisheries and develop approaches to evaluate freshwater fisheries along with technical tools to manage inland systems.
For inland fisheries it will be particularly important to engage with other sectors (e.g., hydropower, agriculture) and consider fisheries within an integrated watershed management framework.
Mobilize resources and provide financial support for continued capacity development programmes aimed at strengthening stock and fisheries assessment and monitoring systems, particularly in developing-world, small-scale and inland fisheries.
Consider adoption of a new global target for sustainable management that would be more conservative or precautionary in data-limited situations and/or where governance is weaker.
Focus efforts on collecting biological, fishery and habitat information, in a cost-efficient and rigorous manner.
Data-poor does not always mean information-poor. Develop and implement better mechanisms to incorporate multiple types of available information, including local knowledge and expertise, and their integration into assessment and management approaches.
Collect basic data needed for a particular fishery and capture local knowledge to help design empirical, simple harvest control rules.
Encourage appropriate communication, knowledge mobilization and education across all actors (fishers, scientists and managers) involved in decision-making to improve transfer of information and buy-in compliance to regulations to achieve effective management systems.
Promote appropriate communication and awareness about the impact of illegal fishing on overfishing and fish stock recovery.
Encourage mechanisms to improve and reward compliance with management regulations.
International organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and academic and research institutions need to better cooperate and expand its outreach to build technical capacity in fisheries and aquaculture to continue to take on the challenge of sustainability of global fisheries.
Biological diversity and the complex interconnections between species and populations, their functions and the environment, underpin the food and livelihoods upon which our growing population depends.
Despite the linkages between food provisioning, ecological and socioeconomic systems, objectives for biodiversity conservation have often been considered to be in competition with objectives for food security.
However, the management and conservation of habitats and fish stocks, including restoration and rebuilding efforts, have been proven to deliver multiple benefits. It has been estimated that:
every dollar used in coastal habitat restoration can potentially generate USD 15 in benefits (ABT, 2015).
and every dollar invested in fish stock recovery can generate about USD 4.80 in benefits (Sumaila, 2012).
Productive and healthy ecosystems actually supply more food than degraded systems. It is evident from recent data that pushing the system harder and further does not improve food security and it puts the system’s integrity at risk of shocks.
Women and men hold different specific biodiversity knowledge and use it in different ways. The collection of sex-disaggregated data can shed light on gender roles in biodiversity protection and fisheries management, and can help us design interventions that promote equality and inclusion.
Objectives and priorities that will help us ensure people’s nutritional needs are met while ecosystem resilience is maintained need to be developed and measures put in place to ensure that they are achieved.
Support the development of joint biodiversity and food security objectives that recognize trade-offs and are nationally and locally relevant, and supplement aspirational targets for biodiversity and food security.
Engage and influence existing and emerging policy frameworks (for example, the CBD’s post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and the SDGs) that represent opportunities to design, implement and monitor joint objectives.
Continue developing inclusive integrated management frameworks that rapidly move to reference points consistent with ecosystem sustainability goals, promoting stewardship and participatory management that effectively translate into action at all scales.
Enhance the ability to monitor and report on ecological, economic and social sustainability by incorporating information on ecosystems (including people), drawing on diverse sets of knowledge (social, economic and biological sciences, and local and traditional knowledge), disaggregated by gender.
Promote and strengthen diverse, inclusive and accountable partnerships to effectively manage ecosystems for both biodiversity and food security.
Integrate market-based mechanisms with measures to protect non-market social and ecological values that advance sustainability in fisheries management.
Implementation should build on previous experiences using these tools that help achieve joint objectives and remain mindful of the specific context.
People have never consumed as much fish as they do today: per capita global fish consumption has doubled since the 1960s from 9.0 kg per year to 20.5 kg per year. Since 1961 the average annual growth rate of global apparent food fish consumption has outpaced the one of the population and the one of meat consumption from all terrestrial animals combined.
Today fish products provide
people with almost 20 percent of their average per capita intake of animal protein.
Plus, fish products provide a further
people with about 15 percent of their per capita intake of animal protein.
Despite the very significant role fish and fish products play in our fight to secure food and nutrition for all, they are often separated from other parts of the food and agricultural systems in food security studies, debates and policy-making. With demand for food due to increase by 60 percent by 2050 (FAO, 2017), this needs to change.
Targeted research and policy reform would strengthen the role of fish in global nutrition efforts, but linking the research and policy evades us to date. Elevating the role of fish in nutrition and food security policy priorities, based on evidence, will help the sector fulfil its potential contribution to a sustainable future for food.
Even though an estimated 690 million people are undernourished, placing food security and nutrition high on global political agendas, nutrition attracts only a fraction of official development aid (below 1 percent in 2016).
Use best available science to make food policy and nutrition action plans.
Improve data collection and analysis of aquatic food consumption and analysis of nutrients and food safety (at species level, considering parts used, processing and preparation methods).
Ensure that aquatic foods are reaching those who need them most, across diverse communities within regions, and diverse individual needs within households – to ensure that essential micronutrients, fatty acids and bioavailable proteins reach children, women and men.
Deploy context-specific messaging through appropriate channels to encourage consumption of diverse nutritious and sustainably produced aquatic foods.
Include aquatic foods in food systems policies, given their potential contribution to addressing malnutrition in all forms.
Improve the utilization and stability of the aquatic food supply by supporting disruptive technologies, social innovations and targeted risks to unleash new networks of supply chain governance capable of empowering women-led businesses and being inclusive and socially just.
This information comes from the International Symposium on Fisheries and Sustainability. Want to know more about the role of fish in food security and nutrition? See the full symposium booklet and proceedings
More than 39 million people around the world are engaged in the primary sector of capture fisheries. When adding the even larger number of people involved in pre- and post-harvest activities, it is clear that fisheries constitute a crucial source of income and livelihoods in the world today. Moreover, around 47 percent of the total workforce in the small-scale fisheries are women, primarily in the post-harvest and trade activities.
10 to 12% of the world’s population rely on fish for their livelihoods.
An estimated 5.8 million fishers in the world earn less than USD 1 per day (2012).
Fisheries often underpin the economic and social fabric of coastal and rural communities, and are crucial for community coherence and stability as well as for local economies.
Maintaining the livelihoods and diversity of those dependent on inland and marine capture fisheries value chains requires addressing common vulnerabilities such as environmental degradation, pollution, competition from other sectors, and severe working conditions.
There are several global instruments and frameworks on good governance which support fisheries livelihoods including:
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
International Labour Organization (ILO) instruments
the Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) Guidelines
Voluntary Guidelines on Tenure (VGGT).
Also important are instruments that are relevant to fisheries but often not implemented in fisheries like the:
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of the 4th World Conference on Women
International Labour Organization C. 190: Convention Concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work
These and other relevant instruments need to be fully recognized and applied to ensure sustainable livelihoods in the sector.
Fully recognize and support the role of fisheries, in particular small-scale fisheries, in income, culture, and food security and nutrition.
Recognize the role of women and prioritize achieving gender equality across the value chain, including decision-making.
Empower fishing communities, strengthen participatory approaches and build capacity. By developing and supporting inclusive institutions and small-scale fisheries organizations, including those representing the rights of indigenous communities, women and marginalized sectors of societies, local communities can participate in resource planning, development and governance to secure access to resources and markets.
Modify data collection systems to include interdisciplinary and disaggregated data to account for nutrition, well-being, gender and other dimensions beyond catch. Encourage co-production of information with stakeholders to promote trust and collaboration among governments, academia and small-scale fishing communities, and build capacity to use information.
Promote approaches to fisheries development and governance that build on the principles of the SSF Guidelines.
Ensure that actors along the value chain, in particular women and small-scale producers and processors, have the capacity to seize opportunities and have access to benefits and engage fully in sustainable and equitable food systems.
Encourage recognition of the role of small-scale fisheries in livelihoods, food and nutrition to millions of people globally, and use the occasion of the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2022 to raise the profile of fisheries livelihoods.
International trade has increased in recent decades, from USD 8 billion in 1976 to USD 164 billion in 2018.
Trade of fish and fish products generates major economic revenues. Plus, the fisheries sector generates income for millions of people working in a range of industries and activities around the world – particularly in developing countries, which are the main producers (74 percent of total capture fisheries), consumers and also exporters.
However, the full contribution of the fisheries and aquaculture sector to the economy is often not adequately documented.
Also, invisible unpaid or underpaid auxiliary work allows fishing activities by men to continue even when the activity is not profitable (e.g., mending nets, net making, administration, selling); women’s or group minority contribution to the workforce can bring problems when unpaid or not-registered work take place, creating hidden inputs making a transparent price structure difficult.
Not only can knowledge gaps lead to sub-optimal planning and decisions by policymakers, but the lack of sufficient economic and socio-economic data prevents the sector from making the necessary changes to allow it to reach its full potential as a generator of long-term economic and social benefits.
Understanding this contribution is fundamental for achieving inclusive economic growth and development.
Fishing is an economic activity, and the efficient and effective allocation and utilization of scarce economic resources should be part of the policy discussion also in the fisheries sector. The labour of women’s or group minority contribution to the workforce can bring problems when unpaid or not-registered work take place, creating hidden inputs making a transparent price structure difficult.
Improve the collection and analysis of economic data on the full impact of the sector, especially on the contribution of women and the small-scale fisheries, to support policymakers to make informed decisions.
Include economic considerations in policy trade-offs. Introducing market-based instruments leads to higher financial efficiency and increased profitability for operators, but reduces the number of jobs, necessitating the introduction of social-support systems/flanking measures during the transition.
Increasing average age of fishers together with higher availability of technological tools provide opportunities for sectoral restructuring and improved opportunities for young and well-qualified people, leading to improved economic returns.
Promote trust across value-chain relationships. Fisheries management does not take place in isolation and requires building awareness through participation in sustainability at all levels of the supply chain, including consumers and fishers.
Define and allocate property rights and implement actions, based on local contexts, to improve the economic performance of fisheries.
Recognize the role of women and disadvantaged groups in the value chain by achieving equal pay and improving the inclusion and participation at all levels. Mainstream inclusive polices to increase the role, well-being and working conditions of all human capital in the sector.
Improve access to credit, finance and insurance, especially in the small-scale subsector, and in particular for women entrepreneurs and operators from disadvantaged groups.
Reduce waste and increase utilization by developing new products and markets.
Reduce and eliminate harmful subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.
Promote greater social responsibility in the fisheries value chain, working together through public–private partnerships, and through international collaboration with the ILO, IMO and others.
Capture fisheries is the only major food production industry that relies upon the sustainable exploitation of wild populations. The industry is therefore affected by natural fluctuations in resource abundance as a result of complex physical, biological and ecological interactions.
Climate adds a new super-challenge to fisheries management as it adds a significant uncertainty to deal with. This is because fisheries management strategies have been largely constructed under the premise that populations fluctuate around a mean population size, and thus are built to ride the peaks and troughs. But if climate change results in unidirectional changes, for example in the abundance, distribution and life history of fishing resources, do we have the tools to adjust our management strategies accordingly?
The ocean has absorbed 93% of the additional heat produced by anthropogenic climate change.
By 2100 up to 35 Exclusive Economic Zones will receive new transboundary stocks.
Changes in marine fish catch potential vary by region. The biggest decreases can be expected in the tropics, while for the high latitude regions catch potential is projected to either increase or show less of a decrease than in the tropics.
It is expected that by 2100 up to 35 Exclusive Economic Zones will receive new transboundary stocks as a result of distributional changes, presenting new challenges and opportunities for fishing nations, and creating the potential for conflict over newly shared resources.
Approximately 50 percent of inland fish species are threatened by climate change impacts including increasing water temperatures, altered discharge and interactions between these and other stressors, such as invasive species, pathogens and hydropower.
Urgently implement transformative adaptation. Many fishers are already adapting, but institutions and policies need to step-up. Learn from examples of successful adaptation.
Respond to climate change by improving fisheries management through the implementation of cross-sectoral, holistic and precautionary approaches that attain robustness to variability, rather than stability.
Develop adaptive spatial management mechanisms that can help address shifts in species distributions and changes in the seasonality of ecological processes.
Climate change will almost always result in winners and losers. This requires negotiating trade-offs and building on climate justice, equity and ethical considerations when taking decisions on the allocation of and access to fisheries resources.
Diversify value chains by adding value to new or currently undervalued resources. Promote market diversification to avoid weak links that result in low resilience to changes and shocks. Educate consumers.
Design adaptation solutions that account for gender differences in terms of vulnerability and build on the specific skills and the positive role women and youth can play.
Invest in innovation to modify fishing, modern insurance alternatives, early warning systems, communication, and the use of industry real-time data.
The fisheries sector generally remains a late adopter of novel information system technologies. The capacity of many developing countries to adopt even basic technologies is often characterized as very low.
Inadequate collection frameworks and major data gaps are still widely encountered, holding back many countries from properly assessing and tracking the status of their fisheries resources and designing effective fisheries management policies and schemes.
The need to improve availability and use of fishery data, statistics, and information has been clearly outlined in FAO’s State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. SDG targets constitute a unique opportunity to increase data generation, and improve their quality, availability and usage in monitoring systems for policy guidance.
Information technology (IT) is a swiftly innovating industry, and beyond a five-year time frame it is difficult to predict what IT will look like and how far it will transform our monitoring and management processes. However, it is clear that data are increasingly used to drive real time decisions.
Artificial intelligence will be empowered by the availability of a huge amount of heterogeneous data produced, in large part by sensing technologies whose variety, distribution and purpose are growing exponentially, from satellites, buoys, terrestrial and underwater vehicles, and citizens.
However, innovation in data driven technologies poses a number of risks – like trust and transparency, ethical questions, and the divide between information and knowledge - that must be appropriately addressed.
While governments and agencies in charge of fisheries monitoring and management have been historically reluctant to open access to data systems, fish and fisheries data are rapidly becoming a public commodity.
The emergence of new technologies such as blockchain, big data, artificial intelligence and deep learning is likely to significantly affect the established data value chain and to disrupt the sector’s management in the short to medium term.
The role that the public sector at national, regional and global levels plays in this arena remains crucial. By supporting strengthened governance and increased partnerships among data and technology providers, and strategies for sustainability, the public sector can help achieve comprehensive, neutral and sharable data feeds from local applications to global statistics and trends monitoring.
Integrate data collection and supply chains. There is a strong need for developing countries to invest in the capacity to collect, compile and analyze data in fully integrated systems.
Promote online structures delivering analytic services, and invest in remote sensing technologies, internet accessibility and sensors as ways to generate new, real-time and inclusive knowledge.
Development of key simple and easy to collect data as a way to expand the information on which to make fisheries management decisions.
Tackle institutional and regulatory barriers preventing the implementation of effective fisheries information systems and data sharing, and consider open-data policies governed by principles that are secure and transparent.
Build trusted knowledge from data. Develop well-defined, transparent and inclusive processes to facilitate communication at the science–policy interface in order to ensure that trusted sources of data and information (including indigenous ones) produce credible, relevant and legitimate fisheries knowledge, openly accessible, at all scales.
Reduce the digital divide. Invest in mobile data collection and the use of remote-sensing technologies, involve fisherfolk communities, including women and youth, and empower them with services (including analytics) to improve their livelihoods and facilitate ownership.
Support capacity building in the data supply chain, i.e. data collection, data management and data analysis.
Develop international policy guidelines on how to develop and equitably utilize emerging technologies and ensure FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable).
By supporting strengthened governance and increased partnerships among data and technology providers, the public sector can help achieve comprehensive, neutral and sharable data feeds from local applications to global statistics and trends monitoring.
Awareness of the importance of our oceans and inland waters has been growing, both within governments and civil society; however, recognition of the many services they provide has only recently had a prominent presence in the agenda of high-level political leaders.
There is now broad agreement that the governance frameworks for oceans and seas need to be reinforced to secure ocean-based goods and services for future generations and to develop a truly sustainable blue economy.
The international legal framework for the fisheries sector is now well established, both in areas under national jurisdiction and the high seas, following the calls from the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1995) for cooperation and coordination at regional and global levels.
However, implementation of fisheries policies at national, regional and global level is uneven and has met with mixed success. This is sometimes due to policy failures and sometimes due to implementation failures, including lack of capacity or lack of resources.
The jobs created for both men and women as fish move from deck to dish help to eliminate poverty.
The fish caught provide food security and nutrition.
Well managed fisheries operating on an ecologically sustainable basis can contribute to poverty eradication, economic well-being, cope with climate change, and facilitate peace and security.
When access to these natural resources and markets is recognized and secured for small-scale artisanal fishers, the voices of competing sectors will be more equal, and gender equality will be better served.
Integrate fisheries into broader planning and governance frameworks that bring multiple sectors together. Fisheries management cannot act in isolation, and should be working alongside other more visible and economically valuable sectors.
Continue and intensify efforts to eradicate IUU fishing. In particular, all flag, port, coastal and market States need to ratify and implement the PSMA.
Strengthen the political will and capacity to improve implementation of existing policy frameworks, and support policy innovation for emerging challenges.
Ensure fisheries policy and management decisions are inclusive, promoting scientific evidence and the recognition of local and traditional knowledge.
Improve public and governmental perception of fisheries to justify investment and respond to criticism, thus increasing ownership of the fisheries agenda.
Increase accountability and build greater trust in the capacity and transparency of the fisheries sector to be part of the solution.
Improve cohesion between fisheries and biodiversity conservation objectives.
Ensure livelihoods, well-being and decent work are fundamental goals in fisheries governance and management, involving stakeholders, and securing rights and access, while reconciling food security and supply objectives with conservation.
Ensure that efforts to develop the blue economy are based on sustainable development, and incorporate the rights of those whose livelihoods depend on the sea now and for future generations of fishers.
Improve gender equality, support to younger generations and capacity building in fishers’ communities.
Take a closer look at the issues explored here and more with the International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability booklet and proceedings.