Established in 1998, World Fisheries Day is an annual celebration of fisheries and fishers worldwide, with the aim of increasing global awareness of the need to manage aquatic ecosystems in a sustainable manner. Each year the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) focusses on changing the way the world manages global fisheries, to ensure that stocks and healthy oceans can be maintained. Today, in honour of World Fisheries Day, we will be exploring the concerns that led to the creation of this day, particularly the current state of world fisheries and aquaculture, and how we can strive for a sustainable future for the whole industry.
The History of Responsible Fisheries
Throughout history we have assumed resources to be infinite, from oil in the ground, to animals in the wild, and fish in the sea. However, after the vast scientific and technological advancements of the 20th Century, we saw a dramatic change in fisheries and fishing fleets, as it became apparent that fisheries resources are, indeed, limited.
As a result, The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries was created and unanimously adopted by FAO members in 1995. The document set out globally agreed standards for the use of fisheries and aquaculture resources, to ensure their sustainable use and promote responsible practices within the sector. Since then, the FAO and other organisations have worked to implement The Code with 50 international and technical guidelines, 4 international plans of action, and 3 strategies, which have developed and adapted over the years.
Today, 25 years since the establishment of The Code, fisheries and the Earth’s aquatic ecosystems still remain under great threat. Global fish production was estimated to have reached 179 million tonnes in 2018, up from 102 million tonnes in 1995, and is expected to expand further to 204 million tonnes by 2030.
While aquaculture production alone is expected to increase by 32 percent (26 million tonnes) between 2018 to 2030, the average annual growth rate should slow from what was 4.6 percent in 2007-2018 to 2.3 percent between 2019-2030. This is due to a number of contributing factors, such as the reduced availability of water and production locations, increased outbreaks of intense production-related diseases, a decrease in productivity gains, and, positively, a broader adoption and enforcement of environmental regulations.
However, despite its deceleration, the world’s growth in aquaculture production is expected to fill the supply-demand gap.
Predictions such as this highlight the need for change and emphasise how such outcomes can be exacerbated by poor governance causing further environmental degradation and habitat destruction, leading to pressure on resources, and consequently result in overfishing, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Human Reliance on Fish Production
In conjunction with increased fish production, the total amount of fish used for human consumption has reached 156 million tonnes. To put that into perspective, global fish food consumption has increased at an annual rate of 3.1 percent from 1961 to 2017, a rate almost twice that of annual world population growth. It is figures like these that highlight the scale of human consumption, as well as our reliance on fish production to feed our growing global population.
Fish is the main source of animal protein for billions of people worldwide, and the livelihoods of more than 10 percent of the global population depend on capture fishing and aquaculture. It is because of this that fish and fish products are now among the most traded food commodities in the world, totalling an estimated USD 145 billion in 2017. And, with 90% of world trade travelling by sea, the maritime industry is an essential component of the food infrastructure used for transporting fish globally for human consumption.
Furthermore, it is not just for food that people’s livelihoods rely on fish production, it is for employment too. In 2018, an estimated 59.51 million people were engaged in the primary sector of fisheries and aquaculture, with a total number of 4.56 million fishing vessels in the global fleet.
Throughout 2020, with the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more pressure has been placed on maintaining the smooth running of supply chains, to ensure that food resources continue to reach those that need them and those employed in the industry can remain in employment. At Pole Star, we understand that movement across our oceans is critical to the transportation of goods and, as such, have ensured that our solutions enable business continuity.
Through our sanctions screening and vessel tracking solution, PurpleTRAC, Pole Star actively supports vessel owners, operators, ship management companies, and bunkering companies, as well as major international trade financing banks, trading companies, governments and flag administrations, maritime insurers, ship financing and leasing companies, and other members of the supply chain. PurpleTRAC facilitates the management of the user’s reputational risk, ensuring that proper due diligence and risk mitigation processes are in place. As a result, users can keep at pace with regulators, thus maintaining fully operational vessels so that billions of people worldwide can continue to rely on fish for their livelihoods.
Since the establishment of The Code, many international policies and programmes have been developed to support responsible management efforts on global, regional, and national levels. One of the most prominent programmes is The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations’ member states in 2015 and consisting of 17 goals. Goal 14: Life Below Water strives for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development, yet we have a long way to go before the possibility of a sustainable future is set in stone.
Such policies have proven to make a significant difference. For example, fish farming in Asia has produced 89 percent of the global total in the last 20 years. However, due to the government policies introduced in 2016, the rate of growth has been lower than expected, and China’s share in world aquaculture production has declined from 59.9 percent in 1995 to 57.9 percent in 2018, with a further decrease expected in the coming years, reflecting the enhanced implementation of management measures.
Monitoring Our Oceans
There are various preventative measures we can take to slow and destabilise declining stocks, and to ensure that the overuse and exploitation of our oceans and sea life is contained and managed appropriately, to pave the way towards a sustainable future for fisheries worldwide.
One of the key actions that we can take is the monitoring of IUU fishing, which involves reporting activities that are not compliant with fisheries management measures, such as:
Through the monitoring of such activities we can keep unsustainable fishing in check, as well as hold those that violate regulations accountable. In addition, those who are legally fishing will maintain a fair opportunity to catch fish stocks, without jeopardising the future of the industry and their livelihoods.
In order to monitor fishing in this way, the industry players must make use of vessel tracking and surveillance solutions and, ultimately, digitised maritime technologies.
How Pole Star Can Help
Pole Star is widely recognised as a leading provider of Fisheries Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), Vessel Tracking Unit (VTU), and satellite airtime (VMS reporting services) to the regulatory and commercial fisheries sector. Since 1998 we have continued to serve multiple government agencies, RFMOs, fishing companies, and fishermen worldwide. Today, we support the wider fisheries sector providing services to various agencies including, North and South America, as well as Australia. We also provide a broad array of business applications, satellite communications services, and specialised VMS hardware kits to industry.
Additionally, Pole Star’s Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) platform is a comprehensive AIS integrated maritime data solution for those that require complete situational awareness. Users can track, monitor, and query the progress of any vessel utilising secure satellite data, alongside satellite and terrestrial-based AIS data. Our patented tracking technology creates a hybrid track of a selected vessel, ship details, and more, for actionable intelligence that can be used by maritime authorities for the detection of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing within Exclusive Economic Zones, Territorial Seas, Fisheries, and Closed Area Zones.
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Learn more about The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020.