Sustainability Boost Needed for Farmed Fish and Shrimps

Aquaculture, revealed in a key UN analysis today to be the basis of all future growth in global seafood production, desparately needs to be put on a more sustainable basis, leading global environment organization WWF said today.

State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture 2008 (SOFIA 2008), released this morning by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that food supplies from aquaculture now equal those from ocean and freshwater capture fisheries. The report also documents a continuing drop-off in yields from the world's marine capture fisheries, with FAO saying "more closely controlled approaches to fisheries management" are needed.

"The dramatic growth in aquaculture makes it more and more urgent to ensure that aquaculture becomes more sustainable and that supplying the stock and the feed for fish farming becomes less of a burden on traditional fisheries,” said Miguel Jorge, Director of WWF’s Global Marine Programme.

“Coastal aquaculture must also stop making inroads into fish habitat such as mangrove areas, it must becomes less polluting and less of a disease risk and it must be carried out without making communities more vulnerable to natural disasters."

A series of Aquaculture Dialogues, coordinated by WWF and involving more than 2,000 farmers, NGOs and scientists are currently creating global standards to minimize the key environmental and social impacts associated with aquaculture.

Consideration is now being given to whether the standards – initially for the 12 species with the greatest economic and environmental impact – should be administered by a body similar to the Marine Stewardship Council, the leading sustainability certification scheme for marine capture fisheries.

SOFIA 2008 also recorded a rise to 80 per cent in the number of fisheries that are fully or over-exploited, adding yet more weight to predictions that collapsing fish stocks threaten food security in developing countries and the viability of fisheries and coastal communities across the world.

Long -promised action on trade, unsustainable fishing fleet subsidies and protection for marine resources has again been unforthcoming.

“Once again, the leading global fisheries analysis has come out to say the state of of the world’s fisheries is worse than we thought it was,” said Jorge.

“Indeed we and many other analysts believe that the real position of the oceans is much, much worse than the gloomy report from Rome this morning as little account of is taken of rampant illegal, unreported and unrecorded fishing.

“Also, in many cases, even legal fishing quotas have no relationship to actual fish stocks. To take possibly the best known example, the legal quota of Mediterranean bluefin tuna is around twice what the scientists recommend and the illegal catch is equal to the already inflated legal quota.”

WWF is calling urgently for fisheries to be managed in line with scientific advice, for more closed seasons and areas to allow stocks to recover, for massive reductions in bycatch and discards in fishing and for an end to the subsidies that distort the relationship between fishing effort and the fishing resource.

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