According to a recent UN report, the World Oceans Day June 8 designated and celebrated by the UN since last year would be a fishless one in 2050 if the fishing industry failed to restructure itself. The United Nations Environment Program report says earnest streamlining of fishing industry is required to protect the marine life before the oceans are completely disembowelled.
The report recommends reducing the number of large industrial fishing vessels and redirecting counter-productive subsidies. It identifies human activities has dire effect on the world’s oceans and seas.
The vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as corals, and important fisheries are being damaged by over-exploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing practices, invasive alien species and marine pollution, especially from land-based sources. Besides, increased sea temperatures, sea-level rise and ocean acidification caused by climate change also pose a greater threat to marine life which will eventually impact the lives of coastal and island communities and economies.
It is estimated that 11 to 26mn tons of fish or one-fifth of the global reported catch annually fall under the category of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Similarly, only about 25 percent of commercial stocks are in a healthy or even reasonably healthy state. Some 30 percent of fish stocks are considered collapsed and 90 percent of large predatory fish like the blue fin tuna, so prized by sushi aficionados have almost disappeared since the middle of the 20th century.
Nonetheless, the five-day conference on fish conservation opened at the UN Headquarters in New York on Monday gives hope on taking stern measures to contain all kinds of man-made oceanic hazards. The review is held every four years to address the declining numbers of fish stocks under the UN agreement, which took effect from 2001.
The conference is reviewing implementation of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement that establishes a legal regime for long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. It will provide an opportunity for countries to consider new measures to tighten implementation of the legal regime.
The day one of the conference witnessed the UN Ambassador for the tiny Pacific nation of Palau, Stuart Beck, condemning the killing of 73mn sharks a year, for shark fin soup alone. “The slaughter of sharks for their fins to make soup is as needless and cruel as the killing of elephants for their tusks to make ornaments,” he said.
Sharks are susceptible to overfishing because of their low fertility rates and long life spans. But shark fishing has boomed since the 1980s triggered by demand from China and other nations for shark fin soup, a prized symbol of wealth.
The global seafood consumption has doubled over the past 40 years with many switching to seafood diet as it was found healthier than other meat products. With the UN estimation of about 20mn boats with fishing capacity of 1.8 to 2.8 times larger than the oceans can sustainably support, the industry leaders as well as governments may have to make grave compromises on ocean management to see a sustainable ocean in the coming decades. The UN lists the top 10 nations with the biggest fisheries hauls as China, Peru, the US, Indonesia, Japan, Chile, India, Russia, Thailand and the Philippines.
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