Sustainable Fisheries and Responsible Aquaculture
Sustainable fisheries is when enough fish are left in the ocean, and the habitats are protected. Fish swim around and need time to grow and reproduce. Sustainable fishing makes this happen. When the oceans are safeguarded, the livelihoods of people who depend on fishing can be maintained. Aquaculture can be termed as the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, algae, and other organisms in all kinds of water habitats. Its concept is similar to agriculture, but with fish rather than plants or livestock.
Aquaculture also means fish farming. The seafood found at local grocery stores can be labeled as farmed fish. Aquaculture can occur worldwide, specifically in coastal ocean waters, freshwater ponds and rivers, and even on land in tanks. By 2030, 62 percent of all seafood produced for human consumption will come from aquaculture, but as of today, it’s about 50 percent. Aquaculture is essential as it can improve the health of our planet and the health of our population, as long as it is done in a way that is environmentally friendly, socially responsible while ensuring food security and animal welfare. Aquaculture profits humans by providing food, employment, trade, recreation, essential products used to develop new industries and maintain existing ones. Responsible aquaculture is the cultivation of aquatic organisms for commercial purposes to positively impact the environment, contribute to local social community development, and yield economic profit.
According to the United Nations, marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ more than 200 million people worldwide, and the livelihoods of more than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity. However, as much as 40 percent of the world’s oceans are heavily caused by human activities, including pollution, overfishing, and coastal development, resulting in depleted fisheries and loss of coastal habitats, thereby posing a significant threat to marine biodiversity and food supply of millions of people.
Of the 600 marine fish stocks monitored by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 70 percent of the world’s fish species are fully exploited or depleted. This occurrence is a vast problem because not only do many humans across the globe depend on fish from the ocean as a major source of protein, but ocean ecosystems play many vital roles in global ecological health, such as oxygen production by ocean phytoplankton and as a food source for many species in the global food web.
Regardless of the size, geography, or the fishing technique used for a fish, its sustainability can be assessed using a science-based Fisheries Standard. When fisheries are independently assessed to the standard, three main principles are evaluated:
1. Sustainable fish stocks: The level of fishing must be at a level that ensures continuity and healthy production of the fish population.
2. Minimizing environmental impact: The fishing activity must be governed carefully to ensure healthy species and habitats within the ecosystem.
3. Effective fisheries management: Fisheries must agree with appropriate laws and adapt to changing environmental occurrences.
Sustainability is about the future. The sustainability of a fishery is an ongoing process. After the certification, fisheries are regularly reassessed, and many are being improved. To manage fish populations sustainably, commitment and cooperation at all levels, including individuals, local communities, governments, and institutions across the globe, is required.
So, what can we do to fix this challenging circumstance and aid the global fish stocks to spring back? Thankfully, we can do many things because our oceans are in trouble today. Many stakeholders in the fishing industry are already starting to change course and do things more sustainably. There are also sustainable practices that one can use when fishing. These include:
- Hook-and-Lining (pole catching) is a fishing technique that involves using a fishing pole with one line and several hooks. This method allows fishers to release bycatch quickly.
2. Harpooning, which involves the use of hand-thrown harpoons or barbs fired from a gun to catch larger fish with very little bycatch.
3. Use of traps to guide fish into boxes or reef nets placed near the water’s surface that allows them to be tipped into a holding tank.
4. Trolling, which uses anchored lines from a moving boat to hook fish individually, permitting little bycatch and quick release.
5. Purse seining involves using Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) that captivate targeted fish species and then catch them in nets. The FADs, when properly used, reduces the bycatch of non-targeted species to as low as 1%.
6. Longlining, which is a technique having very long central fishing line that has many smaller lines of baited hooks attached to it. When placed deep in the water and special circle hooks are used, they reduce the bycatch incidents extensively.
In the next part of this article, we’ll examine how to take responsibility for ensuring sustainable fisheries.
Author: Gift Ifokwe