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569. Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries for Humanity and the Planet

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Professor Cheryl L. Hendriks, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, contributed an article to the June 23, 2022 issue of Nature journal titled Sustainable small-scale fisheries can help people and the planet.

According to the article, more than 3 billion people worldwide depend on the ocean for their livelihoods, most of them in developing countries. In addition, approximately 17% of the world's population depends on marine products for animal protein, and in the least developed countries, the percentage rises to approximately 29%. Furthermore, as the world's population grows, so does the demand for marine products, and it is estimated that fish consumption will increase by about 15% by 2030.

The article also reiterates that marine ecosystems are being exhausted by climate change and overfishing. However, prior research suggests that marine products can be sustainably increased to meet future food demand. The key to success rests with small-scale fisheries. As small-scale fishers expand their scale, they may lose their current advantage and become just as environmentally damaging as larger commercial fisheries. However, well-managed small-scale fisheries can benefit both livelihoods and the environment, and Prof. Hendriks, who has studied food security and policymaking for decades, suggested the following four ways to support and strengthen artisanal fishing operations.

Small reforms
Fishing rights for small-scale fishermen are often poorly defined, ineffective, and inequitably distributed. Clearer definitions of the terms fisher, fishery, and fishing vessel to make provision for small-scale fishing would go some way to avoiding such overfishing. Giving more fishing capacity to large fishermen could be counterproductive in encouraging overfishing. Subsidies and other funds should be directed to small-scale fisheries to allow them greater access to markets while ensuring that they do not adopt the negative practices of large-scale fisheries.

More for consumption
Global fisheries losses and discards are estimated to be 30% to 35% of the total. Public and private investments in refrigeration and processing facilities (drying, fermentation, marinating, smoking, etc.) could be effective. An effective strategy for seafood consumption would be direct contracts involving international or national financial assistance and coordinated efforts by schools, hospitals, and other institutions. Such deals provide large, stable markets and storage infrastructure for small-scale fisheries and encourage local consumption.

Local control
To help small-scale fishing operations, promote local production for local consumption, and reduce waste, a variety of approaches must be tailored to local community conditions. Cooperatives can help in multiple ways, including coordinating fishing activities, sharing information (weather, sea conditions, fish movements, etc.), and effectively defending human and social rights.

Integrated inputs
Unlike terrestrial resources, the ocean is a globally shared resource with no clear territorial boundaries. Issues as diverse as climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, and pollution from eutrophication and chemicals such as plastics all affect local fisheries. However, as long as fisheries policies focus on single fisheries resources or individual fishing grounds, these interactions receive little attention. While the concept of integrated land management has been part of the development agenda for decades, integrated marine management is finally emerging and needs to involve all stakeholders, including small-scale fishermen, in it.

Also on June 29, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released the 2022 edition of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture — Towards Blue Transformation. The report announced that in 2020, the global fisheries and aquaculture industry reached an all-time record of 214 million tons and 20.2 kg per capita consumption, noting especially the significant growth of the aquaculture industry in Asia.

Fisheries and aquaculture not only supply food and nutrition, but also directly and indirectly support the livelihoods of many people through employment, and the transformation of this sector is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This year is the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture, and JIRCAS will take various opportunities to disseminate information on the role of innovation in fisheries and aquaculture for sustainable development.

Sheryl L. Hendriks (2022) Sustainable small-scale fisheries can help people and the planet. Nature. 606: 650-652.

FAO. 2022. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022. Towards Blue Transformation. Rome, FAO. https://doi.org/10.4060/cc0461en

Contributors: KANAMORI Norihito (Information and Public Relations Office), MIYATA Tsutom (Director, Fisheries Division)

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