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Symposium 2009

Proposal - The Global Environment - Managing Marine Resources

The Challenge

Three quarters of the global marine fish stock are deemed fully exploited oroverfished. Declining or collapsing fish stocks imply not just the loss of economic benefits but also the loss of liveliho ...

Three quarters of the global marine fish stock are deemed fully exploited oroverfished. Declining or collapsing fish stocks imply not just the loss of economic benefits but also the loss of livelihood for many people in developing countries. The global challenge is to come up with management approaches to sustain global fish stocks in the future without withdrawing the basic food for developing countries in the present.

The Challenges

Fish is vital for world food security. One and a half billion people rely on fish for a fifth of their animal protein intake. Fish makes up at least 15% of that protein intake for 3 billion people. Yet, capture fisheries are under threat. Up to eighty percent of the world fish stocks are already fully exploited or even overexploited. Access to fisheries must be restricted if they are to continue to feed the world’s population, to generate wealth and to help alleviate poverty. Effective and efficient management of the world’s fisheries is crucial.

The world financial crisis, and fluctuations in food and energy prices, combined with the effects of climate change, are recasting the global landscape. The complex social and economic impacts pose unprecedented challenges. For fisheries and aquaculture, this requires strategies to take advantage of new opportunities and to minimize threats. Ensuring responsible and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture is the key to overcoming those multifaceted challenges. Some preliminary solutions have already been identified.

 

Preliminary Solutions

1. Reconcile fisheries utilization and conservation so that responsible and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture coexists with sound environmental management and protection of ecosystems.

A policy framework already exists to ensure sustainable fisheries utilization, the conservation of biodiversity, and ecosystem integrity. That framework includes a suite of legally binding and non-binding instruments. The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) and the respective International Plans of Action (IPOAs) for reducing the incidental catch of seabirds by fishers, for better managing sharks, for managing fishing capacity, and for combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are some of the main thrusts toward responsible and sustainable fisheries. The problem is that these instruments and the overall policy framework are still not being adequately applied across the globe. The challenge is to effectively direct political will to achieve the dual goals of sustainable fisheries utilization and the conservation of aquatic resources and ecosystems.

The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) was addressed by the 2001 Reykjavik Declaration on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem, and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Plan of Implementation. These both reflected a desire to see the impact of fishing in a broader context than simply focusing on fishers and their target species. The challenge for the future will be to develop and use:

  • reliable, robust and cost-effective means of assessing and monitoring the status of ecosystems and their resources, and
  • rapid means for detecting any undesirable and excessive impacts, from whatever source, that threaten sustainable fisheries use.

This information can be used to determine and implement suitable and effective fisheries management as well as to identify the effects of climate change and to strengthen the resilience to it.

 

2. Establish robust and effective management systems for responsible and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture

A lack of good governance and perverse incentives for stakeholders are key factors in the overexploitation of fisheries. The key principles underpinning good governance in any management system are openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence. Effective participation of all stakeholders in fisheries is especially important. Ensuring appropriate representation and input from the fishering industry as well as interest groups, while ensuring that broader societal goals are met, are fundamental components of responsible fisheries management. Effective participation ensures that decision-making is a learning and adaptive process. Moving forward requires governments and stakeholders to work together to ensure that their institutional and legal frameworks are able to incentivise effective fisheries management and that the human and other resources required to effect policy decisions and to ensure ongoing good governance are available.

Right-based management approaches could provide effective incentives for fishers to participate in responsible management systems. Contrary to media coverage of the use of property rights in fisheries management, rights-based fisheries systems are not limited to individual transferable quota (ITQ) systems. In reality all fisheries management systems are based on some sort of ‘user rights’. There is not one style of rights-based system to fit all fisheries. Rights-based management systems need to be purpose built; designed to reflect and build upon the norms and governance structures that the participants and their communities consider legitimate and acceptable. Moreover, when rights-based systems are applied to fisheries where there is overcapacity (too many fishers and/or fishing vessels operating) and overfishing, the impacts of transitioning to rationalized fisheries need to be addressed. That means dealing with impacts on livelihoods, on employment and on the economies of local fishing communities. The ultimate goal is for fishers and their communities to sustainably generate the wealth that fisheries have to offer, both now and in the future.


3. Link fisheries management with trade and marketing standards to ensure responsible and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture

Over the past decade, eco-labels have become a feature of international trade and marketing of fish and fish products. Eco-labels are a market-based mechanisms designed to provide incentives for more sustainable fisheries management by encouraging buyers, from large scale retailers to individual consumers, to only purchase fish and seafood certified as having come from a sustainable fishery. Commitments to sustainable fish sourcing have become increasingly common in the procurement strategies and corporate social responsibility strategies of large-scale retailers and commercial brand owners.

The challenge is to ensure that the pressure and momentum generated by this market-based instrument can be harnessed to complement public measures for sustainable and responsible fisheries management. This means aligning the various incentives so that the private sector, NGOs and governments, both at the national level and internationally, can work together towards the mutual goal of sustainable fisheries management. Eco-labels provide a nexus between product marketing and resource management and are an increasingly important part of the fisheries sustainability equation.

FAO brought the world’s attention to fisheries subsidies as a potential stimulus to overcapacity and overfishing. There is broad agreement in the international fishing community that in the absence of effective fisheries management, certain forms of fisheries subsidies incentivise overcapacity and over-fishing and consequently threaten the continued well-being of wild fish stocks.

The responsibility for fisheries subsidies rests ultimately with national governments. But the impacts can have international consequences for fish stocks and international fish trade. Governments are currently negotiating new disciplines governing the use of subsidies in the fisheries sector in the framework of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Negotiating Group on Rules. That group was set up under the Ministerial mandate from the WTO’s meeting in Hong Kong (2005) which directed the group to “strengthen disciplines on subsidies in the fisheries sector, including through the prohibition of certain forms of fisheries subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and over-fishing“ and, to establish “appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed Members”. As part of the current negotiations, FAO has been mandated by its member countries to provide technical expertise and cooperation to complement the work of the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules.


4. Ensure responsible and sustainable aquaculture development

Aquaculture is a fast growing food production sector, providing income and employment as well as contributing to global food security. Aquaculture now accounts for almost half of fish for food supply. Farmed fish can offer a safe and wholesome alternative to wild-capture fish. However, where aquaculture is not properly managed, it has caused some negative social, economic and environmental impacts, raising concerns about the overall sustainability of the sector.

Irresponsible use of chemicals and antibiotics in aquaculture has caused public health threats and raised concerns about the impacts on biodiversity. In some areas the industry is not subject to adequate regulation. FAO is working with its Members to promote the responsible use of chemicals and antibiotics in aquaculture through better management of aquatic biosecurity. Efforts are also being made to address relevant environmental concerns through capacity building (including skills development for both fish farmers and authorities) and developing technical guidelines including those on aquaculture certification. The sector needs more effective mechanisms for environmental management, including the application of environmental risk assessment, and an ecosystem approach to management.

FAO is also working with other international fora to promote implementation of the CCRF, which includes specific reference to aquaculture (Article 9). FAO is organizing a Global Conference on Aquaculture on 9-12 June 2010 in Bangkok to address the social, economical and political challenges facing the sustainable management and development of the sector over the coming decade.


5. Enhancing the engagement of developing countries in responsible and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture

The need for legal and institutional reforms to ensure improved fisheries management is well recognized in developing countries. Yet some have struggled to keep up with the fisheries management requirements of the CCRF and related instruments while trying to redirect their policy focus away from “productivism” (increasing volumes of production) in favour of increasing the value of catches within sustainable production limits. This shift in focus requires:

  • strong national political will to support responsible fisheries and aquaculture management;
  • international cooperation to help developing countries develop the means and know-how to implement collaborative and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture management; and
  • international cooperation to further engage developing countries in international decision-making fora and to expand regional cooperation for fisheries and aquaculture management.

 

FAO is working with developing countries on all of these fronts.

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