To Combat Hunger, UN Launches Initiative for Sustainable Use of World’s Oceans

Human Wrongs Watch

The future of global food security hinges on the better management and sustainable development of the planet’s oceans and fisheries, a top United Nations official on 25 September 2014 stressed, adding that the world could not wait any longer to act on saving Earth’s marine environments.

Healthy oceans have a central role to play in solving one of the biggest problems of the 21st century – how to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Photo: FAO

Healthy oceans have a central role to play in solving one of the biggest problems of the 21st century – how to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Photo: FAO

Speaking at an event on the side-lines of the General Assembly in New York, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva urged faster action in implementing sustainable practices to protect the world’s “blue economy.”*

“We have the know-how, we have the opportunity,” emphasized Graziano da Silva. “Now is the time to act.”

The event, “Our Ocean: Next Steps on Sustainable Fishing and Marine Protected Areas,” brought Graziano da Silva together with other leaders, including United States Secretary of State John Kerry, to discuss the importance of the world’s marine environments, both for the health of the planet and for the well-being of those who depend on them.

According to FAO, the livelihoods of 12 per cent of the world’s population depend on the fishing sector. On average, 17 per cent of global animal protein intake comes from fisheries and aquaculture, and demand for fish protein is expected to double in the next 20 years. Yet some 28 per cent of global stocks are already overfished.

In its latest report, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Rome-based organization warned that the fisheries and aquaculture sector was, in fact, facing major challenges, ranging from harmful fishing practices and weak governance to poor management and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

In response, Mr. Graziano da Silva pointed to FAO’s new “Blue Growth” initiative which, he said, had “the potential to be a leading programme on the major issues related to oceans and their resources.”

This new initiative would seek to provide technical and capacity-building support to governments, particularly those of vulnerable small island developing States, and farmers to develop national strategies for aquaculture development; disseminate and adopt better management and governance policies and best practices that increase productivity; and reduce environmental and disease risk to stimulate investment. (*Source: UN Release).

Fishermen unload their catch of mackerel at a fish market. UN Photo/M Guthrie

Fish More Important than Ever in Providing Jobs, Feeding the World

On 19 May 2014, a new United Nations report highlighted the growing role of fish and aquaculture in feeding the world and providing a source of income, and calls for the sustainable and responsible management of the so-called ‘blue world.’**

Global fisheries and aquaculture production totalled 158 million tonnes in 2012 – around 10 million tonnes more than 2010 – according to the latest edition of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture,” produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The report highlights the great potential of fish farming in responding to the growing demand for food as a result of global population growth. In addition, the planet’s oceans – if sustainably managed – are crucial to providing jobs and feeding the world.

“The health of our planet as well as our own health and future food security all hinge on how we treat the blue world,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a news release.

Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

“We need to ensure that environmental well-being is compatible with human well-being in order to make long-term sustainable prosperity a reality for all,” he noted, adding that FAO is committed to promoting ‘Blue Growth,’ which is based on the sustainable and responsible management of aquatic resources.

FAO notes that the renewed focus on the so-called ‘blue world’ comes as the share of fisheries production used for food has grown from about 70 per cent in the 1980s to a record high of more than 85 per cent (136 million tonnes) in 2012. At the same time, per capita fish consumption has soared from 10 kilogrammes in the 1960s to more than 19 kilogrammes in 2012.

The new report also says fish now accounts for almost 17 per cent of the global population’s intake of protein – in some coastal and island countries it can top 70 per cent.

FAO estimates that fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of 10 to 12 per cent of the world’s population. Since 1990 employment in the sector has grown at a faster rate than the world’s population and in 2012 provided jobs for some 60 million people. Of these, 84 per cent were employed in Asia, followed by Africa with about 10 per cent.

Among other findings in the report are that just over 70 per cent of wild fish stocks are being fished within biologically sustainable levels; fish remains among the most traded food commodities worldwide, worth almost $130 billion in 2012; and an estimated 1.3 billion tones of food are lost per year – to about one-third of all food produced. (**Source: UN Release).

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