2 The Future of Fish – The Fisheries of the Future

WOR 2 overview

The Future of Fish – The Fisheries of the Future
> WOR 1 provided a panoptic overview. The following report (WOR 2), the second in the series, focuses on the future of fish and their exploitation. Fish have always been a vital source of life for mankind – not only as a food. Fish continue to be essential to the daily diet of people in most regions of the world. At the same time fisheries provide a livelihood to entire coastal regions and still have great economic clout. All this, however, is in jeopardy and is coming under close scrutiny. Fish stocks are declining worldwide, entire marine regions are overfished and some species are already red-listed.

The importance of marine fish

> Fish are a vital component of marine habitats. They are complexly related to other organisms – through the food web and through other mechanisms. Intensive fishing therefore results not only in the decimation of fish species but also affects entire biological communities. The results are often unpredictable. Although industrial fisheries rarely cause the complete eradication of individual species, they may already be having an evolutionary impact on heavily fished species.

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Of fish and folk

> Fish and human societies have had special connections for millennia. The fabric of this relationship has many strands. For one thing, fish is an important source of food for millions of people, supplying proteins and minerals in a combination offered by almost no other foodstuff. Although the industrialization of fishing has led to the loss of many jobs over the years, around 50 million people worldwide still earn their living by catching fish.

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Plenty more fish in the sea?

> Ocean fish are not in particularly good shape. At least a quarter of the world’s fish stocks are overexploited or depleted. In recent decades the search for new fishing grounds has taken fleets into ever-deeper waters. Stocks are further undermined by illegal fishing. It is now clear that overfishing is wreaking havoc on our marine environment and is economically unsustainable. For this reason many nations are adopting a more precautionary approach to fishing.

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A bright future for fish farming

> It is highly unlikely that wild capture fisheries will be able to produce higher yields in future. For aquaculture the opposite is the case. No other food production sector has grown as fast over the past 20 years. Abuses such as antibiotics in fish feed and the over-fertilization of marine waters, however, have brought the industry into disrepute. It must now prove that large-scale fish farming is possible without placing unacceptable demands on the environment.

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Getting stock management right

> Overexploited stocks, unemployed fishermen, short-sighted structural policy – it is impossible to ignore that fisheries management has failed in many respects. Nonetheless, we can all learn from the positive approaches being taken in some regions. These aim to conserve fish species and ecosystems and take account of the social dimension – objectives which the European Union has yet to achieve with its current reform of fisheries policy.

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