Consumption of fish and seafood has more than doubled since 1973, while the amount caught in wild has stagnated. To meet our growing appetite for seafood, the exploitation of our living aquatic resources has expanded rapidly and often in an unsustainable manner. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the share of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels decreased from 90 per cent in 1974 to only 66.9 per cent in 2015, resulting in an estimated loss of US$83 billion each year. To facilitate the transition to sustainable ocean-based economies, we need to address unsustainable practices in the fishing industry across the entire value chain.
An example of one of the world’s greenest fisheries are the Maldives, an archipelago of around 1,200 coral islands mostly known for its tropical beaches. Fish is the country’s main natural resource and tuna is the country’s primary export good, following the tourism industry. To ensure that people can derive the economic benefits from fishing over the long-term, the Maldives government has been encouraging a sustainable and diversified development of the sector.
Today, Maldivian fisheries are known for being community as well as environmentally friendly. Fishermen typically receive their payments immediately upon return from sea, which is usually on the same day, since the industry does not engage in distant water fishing. Remaining community members, particularly women, complement the crews’ fishing activities by processing the catch, thus generating additional incomes. The certification of the Maldives tuna fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council further highlights the fishery’s environmental sustainability. Maldivian fishermen fish by “pole and line”, meaning that they catch the fish one by one – a technique that reduces unwanted bycatch and harm to other marine life. Good reporting techniques and protected marine areas, the prohibition of net fishing and trawling, the restriction of coral mining restrictions, and the protection of turtles and sharks have further improved the sustainability of the country’s fish stock.
Photo by IFAD/R. Ramasomanana
Since trade in fish and seafood is key for providing nutrition and food security, as well as employment opportunities and economic benefits, it is imperative that we conserve and sustainably use our oceans, seas and marine resources. Doing so requires that we address sustainability throughout the whole seafood supply chain – from fish to dish. Recognizing the importance of sustainable seafood value chains, the UN Convention on Trade and Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization, UN Environment, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the ACP Group, and the International Oceans Institute co-organized the Second Oceans Forum in July 2018.
To re-affirm their joint commitment and mandate under the 2030 Agenda, particularly SDG 14 to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”, the UN Convention on Trade and Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the UN are now proposing to develop a Joint Voluntary Plan of Action, focusing on the trade-related aspect of SDG 14. The Joint Voluntary Plan of Action will be developed over the upcoming months and will require partnership and collaboration from all stakeholders.
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