32% of the world's fisheries are overexploited, depleted or recovering, which threatens the health, economy, and livelihoods of communities all over the world. The global fishing fleet is estimated to be 250% larger than needed to catch what the ocean can sustainably produce.
» Demand for fish hits record high - UN report shows that the global consumption of fish hits a record high, while the status of the world's fish stocks have not improved. [The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2010 UN report]
» Aquacalypse Now - The End of Fish
There are a number of issues that need to be addressed quickly in order to preserve fish stocks as a natural resource. These include among others:
Overfishing, formally defined as "situations where one or more fish stocks are reduced below predefined levels of acceptance by fishing activities", means that fish stocks are depleted to the point where they may not be able to recover. Areas such as the eastern coast of Canada and the northeastern coast of the U.S. have fished certain species to collapse, which consequently caused the fishing communities that relied on those stocks to collapse.
In some cases, depleted fish stocks have been restored; however, this is only possible when the species' ecosystem remains intact. If the species depletion causes an imbalance in the ecosystem, not only is it difficult for the depleted stocks to return to sustainable levels, other species dependent on the depleted stocks may become imbalanced, causing further problems.
Access agreements through government deals are helping fisheries in developing nations negotiate better agreements with rich countries that will help protect the marine environment and livelihoods of fishing communities. These local people rely on fish to sustain their health and their livelihoods.
Foreign fishing fleets of enormous size and power from rich countries can overwhelm local people and deplete the fish stocks, causing further harm to the marine environment by disrupting the food chain. The more fish stocks become overexploited, the more fisheries must search for productive waters which are then quickly depleted.
The seafood industry, like all industries, is largely market driven. Seafood consumers are increasingly aware of the threats to global fish stocks, yet greater awareness is needed so that the market demands sustainable products from well-managed fisheries. A potentially powerful intervention is being implemented by organizations such as Blue Ocean Institute and the Monterey Bay Aquarium by publishing seafood guides to help consumers make informed choices when buying seafood. Furthermore, recent legislation requires fish sellers to identify the source of seafood. Some retail outlets such as Whole Foods Market are supposedly committed to preserving the ocean's resources by raising awareness and selling only products from well-managed fisheries. Organizations such as the WWF have worked with corporations such as Unilever, one of the world's largest consumer food companies, to form the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which provides a mechanism for identifying and certifying sustainable fisheries.
Seafood Summit brings together global representatives from the seafood industry and conservation community for in-depth discussions, presentations and networking with the goal of making the seafood marketplace environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
Fish2fork is the world's first website to review restaurants according to whether their seafood is sustainable, and not just how it tastes. It is brought to you by the people behind the film, The End of the Line.
An independent, global charity, the MSC is headquartered in London and works to promote sustainable marine fisheries, and responsible, environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable fishing practices. This is accomplished by the development of a set of standards, the MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing, to assess and certify fisheries. These standards are based on scientific data and were developed with relevant stakeholders. Third-party certifiers are used to assess MSC certified products. The MSC "seal of approval" should allow consumers to purchase fish and other seafood from well-managed sources though Daniel Pauly wrote in September, 2009 in his article titled Aquacalypse Now - The End of Fish:
At first, the MSC certified only small-scale fisheries, but lately, it has given its seal of approval to large, controversial companies. Indeed, it has begun to measure its success by the percentage of the world catch that it certifies. Encouraged by a Walton Foundation grant and Wal-Mart's goal of selling only certified fish, the MSC is actually considering certifying reduction fisheries, with the consequence that Wal-Mart, for example, will be able to sell farmed salmon shining with the ersatz glow of sustainability. (Given the devastating pollution, diseases, and parasite infestations that have plagued salmon farms in Chile, Canada, and other countries, this “Wal-Mart strategy” will, in the long term, make the MSC complicit to a giant scam.)
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