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2 The Future of Fish – The Fisheries of the Future

WOR 2 In Short

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A major problem today is illegal (IUU) fishing. Most illegal fishing is carried out in the territorial waters of developing countries, as these nations cannot afford to establish effective fisheries control structures. It is esti-mated that between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish are caught illegally each year, further weakening already overfished stocks. But here too there are encouraging signs. International cooperation projects, for instance, have been involved in developing monitoring systems in West Africa which act as a deterrent and keep IUU fisher-men away. On the other hand illegal fishing is likely to remain an attractive option for black market dealers because rapid population growth will continue to drive up the global demand for fish.
From a nutritional point of view is makes sense to eat fish regularly because fish caught in the wild is a natural, healthy food. It contains high-quality proteins, valuable fatty acids and many minerals. Consumption today is the highest in the industrialized nations, at 28.7 kilograms per head per annum. The lowest is in Africa, at 9.1 kilograms. Experts believe that more and more fish will be consumed worldwide in future. Therefore, if we do not want to plunder the ocean fish stocks any further, the only alternative is aquaculture, or fish farming. Large amounts of fish and seafood are already produced by this method. In 2010 a total of 60 million tonnes of fish, mussels and crustaceans came from aquaculture. Global production has increased by 8.4 per cent per annum in recent decades – more than any other food industry. Its growth is unabated, particularly in Asia which accounts for 89 per cent of global aquaculture production. However, it is vital for fish farming to become more environmentally sound. Various factors have given the sector a bad name, including antibiotics in the fish, overfertilized waters and the felling of mangrove forests to establish new facilities. Many international projects have now been successful in making production more sustainable, and the first products from ecologically managed operations are already on the market. Relevant eco-labels are currently becoming established. Consumers in the industrialized nations, particularly Europe and the USA – the world’s largest importers of fish – are called on to assert their influence in this respect.
Aquaculture has also been under fire for processing ocean fish into the fishmeal and fish oil which is fed to the farmed fish. The problem is that considerably more than 1 kilogram of marine fish is required to produce 1 kilogram of farmed fish. Critics view this as a waste, claiming it would be better to eat the wild fish directly. The counterargument is that there is no demand anyway for the small fish species used in aquaculture facilities. As fish-meal and fish oil prices have soared in recent years in response to the high demand from China, researchers have been trying to reduce the proportion of fish in the feed – by replacing some of it with plant-based supplements and by using more digestible feed mixes.
Wild capture fishery or aquaculture: we already know how the fishing industry could be improved. Now it is time for us to set the course for a sustainable future. This applies in particular to Europe where solutions for its new Common Fisheries Policy are currently under discussion. It is important to reduce the oversized fishing fleets of Portugal and Spain. Fears of high unemployment have prompted policy-makers to subsidize and modernize the fisheries for years, thus speeding up the sell-out of the fish stocks. The problem of bycatch is also unresolved. Fisher-men throw overboard any undersized fish and those for which they have no licence. Most of the creatures die. In some cases this discard amounts to 70 per cent of the catch – an enormous waste. In future improved licensing systems and monitoring by CCTV cameras or state observers on board should help to bring the problem under control. The next few months will show whether the policy-makers, particularly the EU Fisheries Ministers, manage to introduce a sustainable fisheries management system. It is to be hoped that this publication will help convince them of its importance.
Nikolaus Gelpke, Awni Behnam, Martin Visbeck
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