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UN Conference on saving world's fish stocks: migratory species & high seas fish stocks fully exploited or over-exploited


By WcP.Observer - Posted on 25 May 2010

A total of almost 80% of the world's fisheries are fully- to over-exploited, depleted, or in a state of collapse. Worldwide about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone.

(quote)

UN News Centre: Conference on saving world’s fish stocks opens at UN Headquarters
24 May 2010 – A five-day conference on fish conservation opened at United Nations Headquarters in New York today amid warnings that three quarters of the world’s fish stocks are in distress and nearing depletion while marine ecosystems continue to deteriorate.

graph illustrating overfishing; habitat destruction, bycatch, incidental mortality

The conference chairman David Balton, United States Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries in the Bureau of Oceans, cited over-fishing, the effect of fishing on the marine environment and the need for further assistance to developing countries as among the forum’s main issues.

overfishing in the Mediterranean Sea has led to the targetting of smaller and smaller fish

The conference is reviewing implementation of the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement that established 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 agreement, which took effect in 2001 and has 77 States parties, covers highly migratory species that regularly travel long distances, such as tuna, swordfish and oceanic sharks, as well as straddling stocks that occur both within the exclusive economic zone of coastal States – up to 200 nautical miles offshore – and areas beyond and adjacent to that zone, including cod, halibut, pollock, jack mackerel and squid.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that currently three quarters of all fish stocks are in distress and nearing depletion and that the majority of straddling fish stocks, highly migratory species and other high seas fish stocks are either fully exploited or over-exploited.

The conference, a resumption of the last review that was held in 2006, will “take a hard look at what is being done to give effect to the Fish Stocks Agreement,” Mr. Balton said. It will also consider progress made in the implementation of recommendations since 2006, many of which led to concerted action to improve fisheries. The conference is open all countries.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including many that raised concerns about the fate of Atlantic bluefin tuna and two species of sharks at the recent meeting of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), are also participating.

Oceans' fish could disappear in 40 years: UN

NEW YORK — The world faces the nightmare possibility of fishless oceans by 2050 unless fishing fleets are slashed and stocks allowed to recover, UN experts warned Monday. "If the various estimates we have received... come true, then we are in the situation where 40 years down the line we, effectively, are out of fish," Pavan Sukhdev, head of the UN Environment Program's green economy initiative, told journalists in New York.

A Green Economy report due later this year by UNEP and outside experts argues this disaster can be avoided if subsidies to fishing fleets are slashed and fish are given protected zones -- ultimately resulting in a thriving industry. The report, which was opened to preview Monday, also assesses how surging global demand in other key areas including energy and fresh water can be met while preventing ecological destruction around the planet.

UNEP director Achim Steiner said the world was "drawing down to the very capital" on which it relies. However, "our institutions, our governments are perfectly capable of changing course, as we have seen with the extraordinary uptake of interest. Around, I think it is almost 30 countries now have engaged with us directly, and there are many others revising the policies on the green economy," he said.

Environmental experts are mindful of the failure this March to push through a worldwide ban on trade in bluefin tuna, one of the many species said to be headed for extinction. Powerful lobbying from Japan and other tuna-consuming countries defeated the proposal at the CITES conference on endangered species in Doha. But UNEP's warning Monday was that tuna only symbolizes a much vaster catastrophe, threatening economic, as well as environmental upheaval.

One billion people, mostly from poorer countries, rely on fish as their main animal protein source, according to the UN. The Green Economy report estimates there are 35 million people fishing around the world on 20 million boats. About 170 million jobs depend directly or indirectly on the sector, bringing the total web of people financially linked to 520 million.

According to the UN, 30 percent of fish stocks have already collapsed, meaning they yield less than 10 percent of their former potential, while virtually all fisheries risk running out of commercially viable catches by 2050. Currently only a quarter of fish stocks -- mostly the cheaper, less desirable species -- are considered to be in healthy numbers.

The main scourge, the UNEP report says, are government subsidies encouraging ever bigger fishing fleets chasing ever fewer fish, with little attempt made to allow the fish populations to recover. The annual 27 billion dollars in government subsidies to fishing, mostly in rich countries, is "perverse," Sukhdev said, since the entire value of fish caught is only 85 billion dollars. As a result, fishing fleet capacity is "50 to 60 percent" higher than it should be, Sukhdev said.

Creating marine preservation areas to allow female fish to grow to full size, thereby hugely increasing their fertility, is one vital solution, the report says. Another is restructuring the fishing fleets to favor smaller boats that -- once fish stocks recover -- would be able to land bigger catches. "What is scarce here is fish," Sukhdev said, "not the stock of fishing capacity."

As Palau and Pew Fight To Save Sharks and Tuna, Japan Counters with Sushi and Conditional Aid

UNITED NATIONS, May 24 -- When nations and activists met this year about endangered species of sharks and Atlantic blue tuna, Japan lobbied against protections with conditional financial aid to small island states, and even sushi and shark fin soup receptions. These stories were told Monday evening in the UN's new North Lawn building, as Jacques Cousteau's grandson spoke about seeing fewer and fewer sharks during his dives. Experts in the crowd uniformly trashed the role of Japan. It was ironic, as elsewhere in the North Lawn building Japan was presenting itself as an anti-nuclear hero. Janus face, forked tongue, one said.

Earlier on Monday, the Pew Environment Group held a press conference urging Regional Fisheries Management Organizations to do more about illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Inner City Press asked about such fishing off the coasts of Somalia and Western Sahara. Susan Lieberman of Pew said that European Union fleets are overfishing, and the the depletion of fish stock off Somalia may have played a role in driving former fishermen to piracy.

(unquote)

Image courtesy of: OT Thinkers, Greenpeace, See-the-Sea.org, SynEarth, and The State of Our Planet

Creating marine preservation areas to allow female fish to grow to full size, thereby hugely increasing their fertility, is one vital solution, the report says. Another is restructuring the fishing fleets to favor smaller boats that

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