Aquaculture is a win-win for a planet in need – United Nations

“We need more political will and more resources to make this happen. Let us not leave any region of the ocean behind in our sustainability quest.” – FAO, United Nations -Director General Qu Dongyu

By Fabian Dawson

Developing industries like aquaculture is a win-win for a planet in need, FAO, United Nations -Director General Qu Dongyu said at the opening of the agency’s International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability in Rome, yesterday.

“With the world’s population to rise to nearly 10 billion by 2050, land alone will not feed us – we also need aquatic food production,” Qu told the symposium, which brings together the best in the fisheries sector to explore the status of global and regional fisheries.

“But we need to do so without compromising the health of oceans and rivers, and while improving the social conditions of those dependent on fisheries – often the poorest in society,” stressed the United Nations FAO Director-General.

The FAO or Food and Agriculture Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. It estimates a person gets 20.3 kilograms (average per capita figure) of top-quality protein and essential micronutrients from fish every year. Globally, over one in ten people depend on fishing to make a living and feed their families. 

Qu said the state of the oceans is of grave concern due to plastic pollution, the impacts of climate change, habitat degradation and overfishing.

The FAO, United Nations has also noted a dangerous trend – fisheries in developed regions are increasingly sustainable, rebuilding stocks and improving the conditions of those working in the sector, but fisheries in developing regions are not improving as fast.

“This is creating a dangerous sustainability divide. We need to reverse this trend if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Qu.

“One in every three marine fish stocks is overfished – compared to just one in ten some 40 years ago – whilst the growing demand for freshwater fish is affecting the sustainability of inland fisheries.

The United Nations FAO Director-General put forward three solutions to make fisheries more sustainable.

First, re-investing in marine and freshwater sustainability programmes.

Second, investing in sustainable ocean growth for the development of aquaculture.

And third, ensuring that adequate protection measures are combined with effective management, including better addressing food waste in the fisheries industry under the aegis of the U.N.’s Blue Growth program.

Blue Growth is a strategic, innovative approach to improving the use of aquatic resources while simultaneously increasing social, economic and environmental benefits for communities dependent on fisheries and aquaculture.

“We need more political will and more resources to make this happen. Let us not leave any region of the ocean behind in our sustainability quest. If we focus our science, our innovation spirit, our technologies, we will secure and protect one of the oldest and most undervalued food industries. We need to aim big and do concrete things.” concluded the United Nations FAO chief.

Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Oceans said: “treat the ocean with the respect it deserves, and it will forgive our foolish ways, and it will replenish itself and do what is has always done in the past – be the great provider of life on planet earth.”

By the numbers

While the human population has been growing at 1.5 percent per year since 1960, animal protein consumption has grown at 2.5 percent, and fish consumption at 3 percent.

In 2017, fisheries provided 173 million tons of fish products, 153 million for direct human consumption – a seven-fold increase from 1950.

Fish products are one of the most traded food commodities, exceeding the trade of food from all land-based animals combined. In 2017, exports of fish products reached a record 156 billion dollars.

From the mid-1970s, developing countries have increased their net trade benefits from fish from almost zero to over 40 billion dollars a year.

Fish is particularly important in countries with food deficit. Of the top 30 fish consuming nations, 17 are Low Income Food Deficit countries, mainly in Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Some 95 percent of people who reply on fisheries for their livelihoods live in Africa and Asia. The large majority of them are small-scale operators, struggling to make a living out of one of the toughest and most dangerous professions. In 2019, commercial fishing was rated the second deadliest profession on earth.

(Image United Nations – FAODirector General Qu Dongyu inspects an exhibit at the International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability in Rome.)
Photo credit ©FAO/Alessia Pierdomenico.