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From: IRIN <he...@irinnews.org>
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2016 06:02:10 +0000
Subject: A perfect storm: climate change and overfishing ...
To: ElisabethJanaina <elisabethjana...@gmail.com>

Today's humanitarian news and analysis

Online version 

** A perfect storm: climate change and overfishing

Fish stocks all over the world are on the verge of collapse due to the
twin effects of climate change and overfishing, and scientists warn
this could lead to widespread malnutrition throughout poorer countries
in tropical climates.

** Our fish are disappearing (/fr/file/82399)

IFRAME: [1]https://www.youtube.com/embed/6rNNF89_3nU?feature=oembed

Miranda Grant/IRIN
Our fish are disappearing

Oceans have absorbed more than 93 percent of the heat generated by
human activity since the 1970s, according to a report
published this month by the International Union for Conservation of
Nature and Natural Resources.

It says a “truly staggering” rise in temperature has caused chaos in
the seas: dangerous microbes and cholera-carrying bacteria are
breeding in warmer waters, along with toxic algae, which could poison
fish and humans that eat them; coral reefs that provide the habitat
for a quarter of the world’s marine species are dying; species
including turtles, seabirds, and fish are being driven into cooler
waters towards the poles.

For experts researching global fisheries, the IUCN report, compiled by
80 scientists in a dozen countries, landed with a dull thud on top of
a growing pile of their own studies that show overfishing is already
decimating stocks worldwide.

Dirk Zeller, executive director of the Sea Around Us research
institute at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia, said it’s
hard enough trying to convince countries to scale back fishing to
sustainable rates. And as with overfishing, the warming seas won’t
affect everyone equally.

Jared Ferrie/IRIN
A fisherman unloads his catch in Sierra Leone

"Who are the ones who are really going to pay the price? Poor,
developing countries in the tropical zone,” he said in an interview at
his UBC office.

After more than a decade of research, Zeller and his colleague Daniel
Pauly published damning evidence earlier this year about the true
extent of global overfishing. They noted that many people in
developing countries depend on fish for protein as well as
micronutrients that are essential for health. Locally caught fish are
often the only source of those micronutrients, as people do not have
access to micronutrients in meat, eggs, vitamin supplements and
imported fish.

That caught the attention of researchers at Harvard University who
were studying the importance of fisheries for nutrition. They got in
touch and the preliminary findings of their combined research were
published in a June article
in Nature, which warned that about 11 percent of the Earth’s
population could lose out on essential micronutrients as the fish they
depend upon disappear.

“Fisheries management has always been about maximising economic
return, or sustainable yields to maximise the amount of fish we can
take out that can enter the marketplace,” Zeller said. “We argue that
we need to see a shift – we need to view marine resources as a health

** How did we get here?

Climate change is exacerbating a problem that is already 70 years in the making.

Since the end of the Second World War, the world’s fisheries have been
managed as an inexhaustible economic resource, which drove a massive
expansion of industrial fishing. That narrow thinking has brought them
to the dire straights they are in today: if fishing continues at the
same rate, many stocks around the world will collapse entirely.

In order to reach those startling conclusions, researchers had to look
outside commercial fishing data provided by countries to the UN’s Food
and Agriculture Organization, which contained holes that obscured the
bleak reality of the situation and allowed us to maintain the fiction
of endless fisheries.

Fishing boats in Thailand
Vivien Cumming/IRIN
Fishing could become a distant memory for communities like this one in Thailand

As grave as the results are, they also offer solutions.

Governments and agencies need to stop looking at global fishing as an
economic resource only, and write new policies to manage fisheries
better and pull us back from the brink of disaster. Groups advocating
on health and environmental issues – including the UN Environment
Programme and the World Health Organization – must also lobby for
stronger regulations.

There is pressure too on scientists to come up with data that
accurately shows the extent of the crisis the world is facing. Zeller
and his colleagues at the Sea Around Us project have been attempting
to do just that.

Just over a decade ago, they were contracted by the US Fisheries
Council in Hawaii to look into how much artisanal and subsistence
fishermen were catching in the American Pacific islands.

Most of the data from those fisheries had never been collected before.
When the FAO was created at the end of the Second World War and given
responsibility to assemble and harmonise national data on fishing,
these small-scale fisheries were deemed inconsequential – and that
attitude has largely prevailed until today.

When the UBC scientists added what they’d collected from the
subsistence and artisanal fisheries in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam,
and the Northern Mariana Islands, they found that the official catch
data was much lower than the reconstructed data that included
small-scale fisheries. This suggested that fish stocks were in a much
steeper decline than was previously thought.

Zeller started doing similar research on fisheries in Pacific
countries that weren’t as well managed as US territories. He found the
same results.

“Out of that, we said, ‘Ok, maybe we need to do this for every country
in the world,’” he said, and the “catch reconstruction” project was

By 2015, the UBC researchers had completed the first ever catch
reconstruction database for every country in the world going back six
decades. It combined the national data summarised and presented by the
FAO with those from unreported fisheries, including subsistence,
recreational and artisanal (that is, small scale fisheries supplying
local markets), as well as discarded catches from some of the bigger
fisheries in each country.

In January this year, Zeller and Pauly published their findings
in a paper in Nature Communications. According to the data reported by
FAO on behalf of countries, global marine catches peaked at 86 million
tonnes in 1996. The Sea Around Us catch reconstruction suggests a peak
catch of 130 million tonnes that year.

“We find that reconstructed global catches between 1950 and 2010 were
50 percent higher than data reported to FAO suggest, and are declining
more strongly since catches peaked in the 1990s,” they wrote.

IFRAME: [2]//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/VYb1f/2/

** Too many boats in the sea

Although people from poorer communities will suffer disproportionately
as fish stocks collapse, they are not the ones responsible.

“At this point, it is a consequence of overfishing, and mainly
overcapacity by the industrial fleets. And most of the industrial
fleets are from developed countries,” said Zeller, adding that
overcapacity is driven by government subsidies.

China’s fleet in particular has grown rapidly since the 1950s, an
expansion literally fuelled by subsidies.

Fuel subsidies accounted for 94 percent of the $6.4 billion that China
provided to its fleet in 2013, according to a study
published in June in the journal Marine Policy. China is now the
world’s largest seafood producer and about 95 percent of its subsidies
are “harmful to sustainability”, the study said.

In a 15 April complaint to the World Trade Organization, the US said
that China has refused to divulge information about its subsidy

“The dire state of the world's fisheries has led to calls for greater
disciplines on fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and
overcapacity,” said the complaint.

While the problem of overfishing due to overcapacity of industrial
fleets has been accepted at the WTO and elsewhere, solutions are slow
in coming.

Every two years, the FAO convenes a global conference, the Committee
on Fisheries. In 2014, COFI adopted voluntary guidelines for the
management of small-scale fisheries, an agreement reached after years
of advocacy.

“They basically start setting the scene to say that global fisheries
is not about industrial fleets roaming the world’s oceans, creating
money for rich people or for big fishing companies,” said Zeller.
“Fisheries have to be for the local people as a first priority.”

However, the guidelines are not mandatory. A country is not obligated
to dismantle its subsidy system in order to halt overfishing and
prioritise small-scale fishing communities over industrial fleets.

“Many countries are making strides internally about dealing with these
subsidies,” said Zeller. “But the big players such as China and Europe
– they don’t.”

** ‘Runaway train’

Even if the world’s governments could agree on binding measures
against the overexploitation of fisheries, they will have to deal with
another problem that is far more difficult to manage.

“The one thing that is potentially a runaway train on this is climate
change,” said Zeller.

A coral reef is smothered by a plume of sediment
Garth Cripps/Blue Ventures
A coral reef in Madagascar is smothered by a plume of sediment

The IUCN report drives the point home in stark language that is rare
for scientists: “Ocean warming may well turn out to be the greatest
hidden challenge of our generation.”

The report noted that even discussions on climate change at the
highest levels have neglected the seas. But the warning signs are all
around us, in the oceans that comprise 70 percent of the earth’s
surface. Last year, ocean temperatures were the warmest in 136 years
of records, and that was the fourth time the record had been broken
since 2005.

For Zeller, all of this underscores the idea that big economic
interests can no longer be the sole arbiters of fisheries management.

“More organisations – within the UN system, within governments – are
becoming aware that fisheries is not purely an economic activity,” he
said. “It is an environmental issue, and increasingly they will also
know that it’s a health issue.”

Despite the glacial pace of policy change, Zeller sees reason for hope
as management improves in many countries, and there is a growing
understanding of the crisis. More NGOs are becoming involved in
advocating for local fishing communities, which puts public pressure
on governments.

“So yeah, I am cautiously optimistic,” said Zeller. “I have hope for
my son that he will one day still have fish to eat. He’s 11, and he
loves going fishing.”


(TOP PHOTO: An Asian longliner fishing at the maritime boundaries of
Madagascar and the Seychelles is caught in the spotlight of a patrol
vessel. This longliner was licensed, but Illegal. Unregulated and
unreported fishing by industrial vessels in Malagasy waters over the
last two decades has caused untold and irreparable damage. CREDIT:
Garth Cripps/Blue Ventures)
A perfect storm: climate change and overfishing ghc131102183011.jpg
Jared Ferrie (/authors/jared-ferrie) Feature (/feature) Aid and Policy
(/aid-and-policy) Environment and Disasters
(/environment-and-disasters) Climate change
(/environment-and-disasters/climate-change) Food (/food) Health
(/health) VANCOUVER (/publication-location/vancouver) IRIN
(/byline/irin) Africa (/africa) Americas (/americas) Asia (/asia)
Europe (/europe) Global (/global) Middle East and North Africa
* Français 


2. file://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/VYb1f/2/

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