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The increase in fisheries classified as overfished by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the growing gulf between well managed and weakly managed fisheries, necessitates a new course for fisheries management and policy in the 21st century.
The report shows that the percentage of fisheries classified as overfished continues to increase and is now 34.2% of all assessed fisheries worldwide. Only a decade ago, this percentage was a quarter, and in 1974, the baseline for the report, 10% of assessed stocks were overfished.
The coronavirus pandemic has had wide-ranging effects on fisheries worldwide, exacerbating challenges to sustainable management of fish stocks. Many weaknesses have been exposed, highlighting the need to develop a more modern approach to fisheries, including the elimination of harmful subsidies and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
“Overnight, COVID-19 wrecked fisheries supply chains and set people and markets adrift in a sea of uncertainty. We now see plainly that the sector is already highly vulnerable and those most affected are the poorest fishing communities. Clearly, ‘business as usual’ will not serve us well for the next decade.
“We urgently need to prioritise managing fish stocks in developing countries, where many are likely depleted, and where small-scale fisheries contribute significantly to food security, employment and economic development. This means policies that work for both people and nature: ensuring access and equity to those who are most vulnerable and restoring and rebuilding ocean health for the long term,” said Giuseppe di Carlo, Director of WWF’s Mediterranean Marine Initiative.
“In the post-coronavirus era, the FAO must focus on the big challenges of sustainability, climate change and conservation to support a resilient, healthy ocean, sustainable fisheries, communities and industries that depend on them,” said di Carlo.
Production from aquaculture continues to exceed wild capture fisheries, with 54% of the global production of aquatic organisms coming from aquaculture. The sector is growing rapidly, and the impacts of feed production for aquaculture – which comes from both marine and terrestrial environments – are widespread across the planet, contributing to habitat conversion, overfishing and climate change.
“The challenge here is ensuring that we are moving to the most efficient means of food production with the lowest impacts. With growing populations, the pressures on our natural resources and our food production systems are only going to increase,” di Carlo said.
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