Vital Role Fish Farming And Fisheries


Fish and related products play a major role in enhancing food security and nutrition. It is estimated that the global fish production in 2016 was slightly over 171 million tonnes (FAO, 2018). The capture of wild fish and fish farming have been major contributors to the availability of safe and nutritious food to the world at large. Aquaculture and fisheries sector is actually in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While aquaculture predominantly involves fish farming, fisheries entail capture of wild fish from inland, seas and oceans. A combination of both sectors provides considerable amount of seafood for human consumption.

Interestingly, the world in 2014, consumed more from fish farms than wild caught fish. Essentially, fish farming has experienced an exponential growth over the years. In contrast, the fisheries sector has experienced a significant decline. This decline has been attributed to the low levels of fish in the oceans and seas. There has been so much growth in the supply of fish meant for human consumption that it has surpassed population growth in the last thirty years (FAO, 2016). In fact, fish for human consumption has accounted for nearly 17 percent of the world’s animal protein intake.


Without downplaying the milestones above, the sector has more often than not met stumbling blocks in the quest to alleviate food security in a sustainable manner. These challenges have dragged the sector back and inhibited further growth of the sector in many ways. However, there are almost always opportunities in challenges. Therefore, moving forward a discussion of the two interlinked phenomenon will ensue accordingly.

Challenges facing the sector

Strides have been made towards economic growth in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. Unfortunately, this growth has been brought about by inappropriate practices leading to overfishing and degradation of natural habitat (Rose, Bell and Crook, 2016). While one can argue that the end justifies the means, it is self-defeating if the means becomes the end of human generation. The overall effect of such practices manifests itself in the form of inability of fish stocks to regenerate and maintain or surpass their previous numbers.

When overfishing takes place, it means that more fish is taken out of aquatic resources than natural population growth can sustain. Essentially, the amount fished cannot be replaced by natural means. For instance, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) documented 53 percent exploitation of global fisheries and additional 32 percent being depleted, overexploited or recovering from depletion. In 1970, the share of marine stocks that were overexploited stood at 10 percent. This has increased to almost one third in 2009. It is even contended that almost 90 percent of the world’s marine stocks are currently completely depleted or exploited (Mukhisa and Thomson, 2018). It goes without saying that this is a major setback to the SDGs.

In response to this FAO came up with the Blue Water Initiative. The initiative aims at assisting developing countries in implementation of the 2030 Agenda in line with sustainable capture aquaculture and fisheries livelihoods and food systems. Again the Code of Conduct for responsible Fisheries has been introduced to bring sanity into the sector in conjunction with the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (FAO, 1995). These policies now act as global reference for sustainable development in the process of seafood extraction (Ntona and Morgera, 2017). As to whether these instruments have exhibited efficacy is subject to an unwinding debate.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) is one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystem. IUU manifests itself in scenarios where a foreign or national vessel conducts fishing in another state’s waters without permission, fishing is misreported or not reported at all or fishing is conducted where there are no existing conservation regulations (FAO, 2019). About 11 to 26 million tonnes are fished in this manner every year (FAO and UN SG OLOS, 2015). This vice really undermines efforts by regional and national partners to conserve marine stocks with a view of carrying out sustainable fishing in both the high seas and national waters.

IUU fishers operate in way that targets certain species of fish that may vulnerable and has therefore been placed under conservation controls. In doing so, they deplete such kinds of fish so that it become almost impossible to restore the stock to healthy levels. The effects of IUU is far reaching especially with reference to developing countries where the vice is common (Helyar et al., 2014). The illegally acquired fish is probably sold in other markets thus denying the local community a source of income, increases food insecurity, could lead to loss of jobs and heightens poverty levels.

Fishing can be a very dangerous venture for the people engaged dependent on it as a source of livelihood. An estimate of 24,000 deaths occur every year especially involving small fishing vessels. The aquaculture sector has also had to deal with various disease outbreaks leading to loss of lives as a result of proximity to the marine habitat. Asian countries, for instance, suffered infrastructural damage and losses as a result of the Tsunami of 2004 which globally cost over 230, 000 lives. In 2011, 1,100 fish divers were affected with hyperbaric diseases and 528 of them suffered severe disability (INSPECA, 2011). These and other factors have made fishing a very dangerous occupation despite the massive contribution to food security.

Climate change is now a major concern for all countries since it directly affects the livelihood of people. Interestingly, the same people are responsible for harmful activities that eventually interfere with ecosystem balance. The result of these activities can be seen in the form of climate change, increased invasive species, ocean acidification and marine pollution. This accounts for decline in amount of fish caught in marine settings. Out of $362 billion global first sale value in 2016, aquaculture production contributed to $232 billion (FAO, 2018). This shows how much aquaculture has grown while capture fishery has remained almost static since the 1980s. Ultimately there is loss of biodiversity and degradation of natural habitat which is a drawback in the quest to promote sustainable development in the seafood sector.

Degradation of the marine resources is so bad that in some coastal areas, fish is totally depleted or has migrated to other areas. An ecosystem approach to fisheries was thus designed by FAO through the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) (FAO, 1995). The code was meant to provide guidance on sustainable development without negatively impacting on the lives of the communities dependent on fisheries as their primary resources. This approach is already being used in the Asia-Pacific region to limit the number of fishing vessels and also acknowledge community rights in fisheries (Staples & Funge-Smith, 2009). These guidelines if successfully implemented can reverse some of the damages already inflicted on the sector.

There are practices in fishing that when applied lead to obliteration of the marine resources in such a way that some components of the ecosystem will fail to perform their normal functions of balance. The use of poorly designed fishing gears has led to 7.3 million tonnes of fish and other aquatic animals being captured and thrown away into the ocean (FAO, 2016). Some fishing practices are inherently destructive and will cause damage to the life under the sea in many cases. Gears, gillnets, hooks, pots, trawls and dredges have destructive physical characteristics that are not eco-friendly in many ways depending on the nature of the marine habitat.

The danger posed by these fishing gears does not stop at the fishing activity. Some of the devices like nets and traps continue to pose danger to marine life even when inappropriately discarded or lost at sea. Fishing gears that have to be towed have been found to be heavy polluters leaving huge carbon footprints in the sea. Eventually, these practices result in reduced amount of fish available hence directly affect food security in terms of shortage of safe and nutritious seafood.

As mentioned earlier, there is robust framework for the protection of marine life and sustainable development in the sector. Legally binding instruments like the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has a framework for sustainable management and conservation of marine life (Bell et al., 2013). The Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10th December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (Fish Stocks Agreement) facilitates the subsequent implementation of UNCLOS provisions. Hence it is not for lack of legal framework for protection but lack of will by national jurisdictions (FAO, 2016).

Political will and commitment is very key for the success of these international legislative and policy agenda. These policies need to move from an international level to the national level where they are adopted and implemented at the relevant fisheries and aquaculture resources (Garcia and Rosenberg, 2010). However, lack of incentives and resources has stagnated the implementation with many countries showing little or no political commitment. Ultimately, it is the institutions created in given jurisdictions that can successfully adopt the international ecosystem approaches to aquaculture and fisheries.

In view of climate change awareness among global populations, people are becoming more conscious about their health and the environmental relationship. As a result people tend to choose whatever they consume having in mind the environmental impact of a particular product they wish to buy. Consumer decisions are now affected by product connection to ecosystem. Seafood products in some markets are therefore eco-labelled to influence the purchasing decisions (Kennish, 2017). Apart from influencing the buying decisions, this approach also gives due credit to those engaged in fishing practices that are ethical and responsible.

The labels may contain a range of issues including fishing methods used, stock sustainability and socio-economic issues. In some cases, the certification is sponsored by non-governmental organizations, private companies and other stakeholders. Interestingly, countries like Iceland and France have resorted to sponsoring national eco-labels. In Iceland, they have the Iceland Responsible Fisheries Management certification program. The overall effect is that it enhances customer confidence in a seafood products that are labelled. It is possible that in future, consumers will be so eco-conscious that they will not buy packaged seafood without eco-label certification (FAO, 2016).

Blue growth is an innovative concept that aims at revolutionizing the management of aquatic resources through maximum utilisation of ecosystem goods and services acquired from the exploitation of seas inland waters and wetlands. It is aimed to achieve the above elements while ensuring there are social and economic paybacks (Burges et al., 2018). The aim of the whole process is to facilitate the realization of the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental facets. Additionally, it seeks to eradicate poverty and malnutrition among local communities.

Above all, the utilisation of marine ecosystem should be undertaken in a way that not only brings economic and social benefits but also preserves pursuit of blue growth, the cultural aspects of the ecosystem should not be overlooked as well (Rodriguez and Kruse, 2017). Therefore a balance must be struck between the four elements (provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural aspect) that are vital to blue economy inventions. In the same vein FAO introduced, in 2013, a Blue Growth Initiative aimed at supporting the above through partnerships with governments, civil society and public private partnerships.

A national and international resolve to completely obliterate IUU fishing will enhance food security by availing more seafood to the relevant local community that would otherwise be deprived by illegal fishing. However, this requires that fisheries management is strengthened both nationally and internationally. FAO introduced the 2009 Port State Measures Agreement whose provisions if faithfully implemented will preclude IUU fish and related products from entering into ports across the world. This in conjunction with Voluntary Guidelines on Flag State Performance will be instrumental in combating IUU to the benefit of local communities and concerned fishing industry.

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This paper notes that indeed, fish and its related products play a major role in enhancing food security and nutrition. It is also noted that the sector has more often than not met stumbling blocks in the quest to alleviate food security in a sustainable manner, despite having significant opportunities. These challenges have dragged the sector back and inhibited further growth of the sector in many ways. Notably, the challenges should be looked into, in order to overcome them.


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