July 11, 2018

State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report Highlights Impacts of Fisheries on 10 SDGs

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

Author(s): Catherine Benson Wahlén

9 July 2018: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has released a flagship report showing that nearly 60% of the world’s fisheries are sustainably harvested, a decreasing trend from 90% of fisheries in 1974. The report underscores the contribution of fisheries and aquaculture to combating hunger and malnutrition (SDG 2), fighting poverty (SDG) and contributing to economic growth (SDG 8), among other Goals.

Titled ‘2018 The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture’ (SOFIA), the report highlights food and agriculture as critical to achieving all the SDGs and places particular emphasis on SDG 14 (life below water). It points out that fisheries and aquaculture are “highly relevant to nine other SDGs.” Consequently, the report explains the focus of fisheries development and governance has broadened beyond the conservation of resources, biodiversity and the environment to also address the well-being, livelihoods and social agency of people working in the sector and to include interconnected agendas, such as food security, nutrition and trade. In particular, the report highlights the SDG target on ending illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, pointing to several key actions in support of this target: the entering into force of the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing (PSMA); the release of the first operational version of the Global Record, an initiative to make available certified vessel data from State authorities; and the approval of the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Catch Documentation Schemes.

On global trends, the report projects that fish and aquaculture production will continue to expand over the next decade, with combined fisheries and aquaculture production growing from 171 million tonnes to 201 million tonnes by 2030, an 18% increase. The report explains that the amount of fish captured in the wild has remained stable since the 1990s, but the world has begun consuming greater amounts of fish, in part, because of increased production from aquaculture. Fish account for approximately 17% of animal protein consumed by the global population and provide nearly 60 million people with direct employment, 14% of whom are women. In some countries, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Gambia, Sri Lanka and small island developing States (SIDS), fish make up 50% or more of people’s protein intake.

Although 59.9% of global marine fisheries are currently considered to be fished at sustainable levels, the report finds that 33.1% of fisheries are fished at biologically unsustainable levels. The remaining seven percent are under fished. The report cautions that improved fisheries management and stock statuses in developed countries is offset by unsustainable practices in developing countries, where “too many boats [chase] too few fish.” To address these challenges, SOFIA 2018 recommends building effective partnerships, especially on policy coordination, human and financial resource mobilization, and deployment of advanced technologies to monitor fisheries.

The report also underscores the importance of strengthening fisheries management regimes, tackling IUU fishing, reducing loss and waste and combating the pollution of aquatic environments and climate change. For example, climate change is anticipated to cause significant shifts in where fish are caught, with catches predicted to rise in temperate areas and decline in fisheries-dependent tropical regions, resulting in jurisdictional, managerial and operational implications to enable fisheries and fish species to adapt to climate change.

SOFIA 2018 further highlights the impact of marine plastic pollution, including microplastics, on aquatic ecosystems. The report recommends prioritizing preventive measures to reduce marine little, efforts to phase out single-use plastic, and the promotion of circular economies.

FAO released SOFIA 2018 on the first day of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI), which is meeting from 9-13 July, in Rome, Italy.