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GLOBAL: Fishy business - the cost of illegal trawling

lead photo
JOHANNESBURG, 9 July 2012 (IRIN) - Illegal and unregulated fishing is
> worldwide, particularly off the coasts of West Africa and the Horn
of Africa
sea-by-illegal-trawlers> , and accounts for between US$10 billion and
$23 billion of direct losses globally every year, say the authors of
the latest report on fisheries and aquaculture
by the UN Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO).

"Illegal fishing has negative impacts which are biological,
environmental, economic and social," Michele Kuruc, a fisheries expert
at FAO, told IRIN via email.

"Much of the world's fish are harvested from developing countries. In
many cases fisheries management regimes - monitoring, control and
surveillance systems, enforcement and compliance - are not sufficient
in these places, making the fish stocks and communities which depend on
them vulnerable."

Illegal fishing and competition over dwindling resources from
large-scale fishing vessels, including those operated by foreign
companies without authorization, is one of the major problems facing
small-scale fisheries in developing countries.

Small-scale fisheries directly affect the lives of about 357 million
people. More than 90 percent of the world's fishermen play a huge role
in improving food security and alleviating poverty, particularly in
developing countries, says The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture
2012 (SOFIA) the flagship FAO report on the industry.

A joint study by FAO, WorldFish Centre and World Bank, released in
2012, found that more than half (54 percent) of capture fisheries
production in marine and inland waters (excluding aquaculture) was
contributed by small-scale fisheries.


Overfishing - also an effect of illegal fishing - in their home waters
has affected a large number of small fishing communities.

Top 5 African producers of bred fish in 2010
Many of the marine fish stocks monitored by FAO are under great
pressure and the latest statistics available indicate that almost 30
percent are overexploited - a slight decrease from the previous two
years. About 57 percent are fully exploited (i.e. at or very close to
their maximum sustainable production) and only about 13 percent are
non-fully exploited.

"Overexploitation not only causes negative ecological consequences, but
it also reduces fish production, which leads to negative social and
economic consequences," the report notes. "To increase the contribution
of marine fisheries to the food security, economies and the well-being
of coastal communities, effective management plans must be put in place
to rebuild overexploited stocks," the authors suggest.

Countries have taken various steps to reduce overfishing, including
limiting fleet sizes, reducing the number of fishing days, discouraging
or prohibiting damaging fishing practices, introducing harvesting quota
systems, and reserving inshore areas for exclusive use by small-scale
fishing craft and gear.

Top 5 Asian producers of bred fish in 2010
"The prevention, deterrence and elimination of illegal, unregulated and
unreported fishing (IUU fishing) remains a significant challenge for
many countries, especially developing countries, and is often a
precondition for departments of fisheries to pursue sustainable
small-scale fisheries policies because of the intrusion of large-scale
vessels into coastal fishing grounds," Rolf Willmann, a senior
fisheries expert at FAO, told IRIN via email.

"Considerable success has been possible in countries like the
Philippines, where municipal waters are reserved for small-scale
fisheries and government is promoting co-management arrangements
between local government entities, civil society organizations and
fishing communities. In small island states in the Pacific, many
successful examples can be found of local level management of
small-scale fisheries drawing on customary rights and traditions."

Secure fishing rights

The report's authors also suggest that more secure access and tenure
rights for poor communities over their fishing grounds, in line with
the recently adopted Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of
Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food
Security, would help alleviate some of the problems.

More on illegal fishing
CONGO: High-tech
measures to curb illegal fishing
SOMALIA: Fishermen
driven from the sea by illegal trawlers
AFRICA: And then
there were no fish
GUINEA: Illegal
international fishing impoverishes local fishermen
"More secure fishing rights will motivate the communities to exert
greater stewardship over the health of the fishery resources and
promote co-management," said Tina Farmer of the FAO via email. "The
communities need further support to ensure that fish harvested is not
wasted due to spoilage, or the inability to deliver fish in time to the
market," she wrote.

"Guiding principles and good practices for securing sustainable
small-scale fisheries will be contained in a set of international
guidelines that FAO is currently developing through a wide-ranging
multi-stakeholder consultation process with governments, civil society
organizations, fish-workers' organizations and academia," she said.

The SOFIA 2012 report reveals that a record 128 million tons of fish
for human consumption was produced in 2010 - an average of 18.4kg per
person - providing more than 4.3 billion people with about 15 percent
of their animal protein intake.

While Asia accounted for two-thirds of the total consumption (85.4
million tons, 20.7kg per capita), people in Africa consumed the least
amount of fish (9.1 million tons, 9.1 kg per capita). In some important
fish producing countries like South Africa, Congo, Gabon and Malawi,
fish consumption has remained static or declined.

The main reason for the decline in per capita fish consumption in some
sub-Saharan countries is because production has not kept pace with
population growth, said Stefania Vannuccini, an expert at FAO.

The economic slowdown in 2009 has also affected African imports of fish
and fishery products, but the global fish trade is showing signs of a
rebound. But fish prices have been climbing since the beginning of
2012, and the rising costs of energy and fish feed will keep them high.


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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
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