How development organisations can tackle the fisheries challenge | Olivier De Schutter

From Global development | The Guardian Tue Nov 27 2012, 08:07:29

Clamp down on harmful industrial practices and support small-scale fishers to prevent 'ocean-grabbing' and overfishing

Overfishing is becoming increasingly recognised for the ecological disaster that it is. The capacity of the global aggregate fishing fleet is at least double of what is needed to exploit the oceans sustainably, and fishing methods such as industrial bottom trawling have proved particularly destructive. Add to this the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide, leading to increased sea temperatures and ocean acidification, oil spills, agricultural and industrial run-off, pollution from aquaculture, and the enormous accumulation of plastic debris in water, and the critical situation for marine wildlife becomes clear.

But less is said and written about the social dimensions of this disaster. This is not simply a case of an industrial sector hurtling down a path to its own economic extinction. There is also a whole way of life at stake for some of the world's most vulnerable communities.

In parallel to industrial trawlers and distance fleets, some 12 million small-scale fishers operate in coastal and inland marine areas across the world, deriving vital income and dietary protein from fisheries in a way that contributes crucially to the food security of whole communities. Data shows that small-scale fishers actually catch more fish per gallon of fuel than industrial fleets, and discard less fish. And 22 of the 30 countries where fisheries contribute over a third of total animal protein supply are low-income food deficit countries - and therefore among the most food insecure.

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