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Hidden Forces Mask Crisis in World Fisheries

11 Top Fishing Areas in DeclineŚ200 Million Jobs Threatened

Compiled by Badpuppy's GayToday
From Worldwatch Institute Reports

Although world fish production reached an all-time high of 121 million tons in 1997 and fish in many markets are well-stocked and affordable, 11 of the world's 15 most important fishing areas are in decline and 60 percent of the major fish species are either fully or overexploited. As a result, the 200 million people around the world who depend on fishing for their livelihoods are being squeezed out of their way of life.

Anne Platt McGinn unravels this seeming paradox and identifies steps to rebuild fisheries in a new Worldwatch Paper, Rocking the Boat: Conserving Fisheries and Protecting Jobs.

McGinn reports that the crisis in marine fisheries is being masked by the taking of younger and lower quality fish, massive imports from the developing world to the industrial world, and the rapid growth in fish farming.

fish.jpg - 6.40 K"Many of the fish species landed today were considered 'trash' just a few years ago," says McGinn. Low-value species, such as anchovy and pilchard, accounted for 73 percent of the increase in total catches in the 1980s. Since 1970, landings of the most commercially valuable species have dropped by one fourth and earnings per boat have dropped by more than half. Fishers are also hauling in species at a younger age, a practice that guarantees a smaller return in the future.

One billion poor people who rely on fish as their primary source of animal protein already feel the effects of declining world fisheries. An estimated 85 percent of internationally traded fish originate in developing nations. Non-food uses of fish in industrial countries are greater than the total supply of fish for human consumption in Latin America, Africa, and India combined.

Recent dramatic growth in aquaculture, about 10 percent per year, also hides the deepening problems with wild catches from marine and inland waters. Wild catches expanded from 20 million tons in 1950 to 93 million tons in 1996. But in the 1990s, growth in catches has slowed to about 1 percent, compared to 3 percent in the 1980s. Today, one in every five fish consumed comes from the farm.

McGinn cites a number of policy changes that would rebuild depleted stocks and bring back jobs: eliminating more than $20 billion a year in subsidies; reducing industrial fleets by half; requiring the use of less ecologically destructive gear; ratifying important international conventions like the 1995 U.N. Convention on Highly Migratory and Straddling Fish Stocks; and reducing waste. Namibia has reduced losses by requiring fishers to keep everything they catch, instead of the now common worldwide practice of wasting about one-third of the 93 million ton catch. McGinn says, "Bringing conservation back to the forefront of fisheries management will allow this resource to once again be renewable and flourish."