Archive for the 'Fisheries' Category

Ocean state alarming – policy changes are needed

Text and photos (c) 2013 Erkki “Eric” Siirila, copyright & all rights reserved. 

Urgent measures are needed to stop ocean degradation related to climate change. The speed and negative effects are greater and more clearly felt that previously thought. These are the most important conclusions of recent work by an international marine scientist panel.

The results of the latest wide-ranging international review were made public by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) at the beginning of October 2013. Behind the work were the experts of IUCN and International Programme of the State of the Ocean (IPSO). The outcomes have also been published in the scientific journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Evening in the South Atlantic.

Evening in the South Atlantic.

An IUCN press release highlights the contents by telling us the following preoccupying facts: The ocean is absorbing much of the global warming. Unforeseen levels of carbon dioxide are bound by the ocean. The cumulative impact of this, together with other ocean stressors, is much more threatening than past estimates.

The other contributing stressors include decreasing oxygen levels in the sea and runoff of nitrogen from land. Also chemical pollution and serious overfishing are hampering the ocean’s capacity to act as a balancing factor in what is called “carbon preturbations”.

A comment by Professor Alex Rogers of Somerville College, Oxford (also Scientific Director of IPSO) is cited in the IUCN summary paper: “The health of the ocean is spiraling downwards far more rapidly than we had thought. We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated. The situation should be of the gravest concern to everyone since everyone will be affected by changes in the ability of the ocean to support life on Earth.”

Professor Dan Laffoley, from IUCN, commented the new interdisciplinary findings by saying: “What these latest reports make absolutely clear is that deferring action will increase costs in the future and lead to even greater, perhaps irreversible, losses. The UN climate report confirmed that the ocean is bearing the brunt of human-induced changes to our planet. These findings give us more cause for alarm – but also a roadmap for action. We must use it.“

Dead fish on the beach of Bombinhas, Brazil.

Dead fish on the beach of Bombinhas, Brazil.

More in depth, the foreseen challenges and problems include the following:

Oxygen levels in the ocean are expected to decline between 1% and 7% by 2100.  Tropical  oceans and and the North Pacific have had a trend of decreasing oxygen levels during the past 50 years and this will continue because of global warming. In addition, lack of oxygen will be a serious problem in coastal seas commonly affected by eutrophication (sewage and agricultural runoff being the main reasons).

In case CO2 release by us planet Earth inhabitants continues at the current level, acidification of sea water will be a major factor affecting ocean life, marine food production and coastal protection. Acidification would be felt for example on coral reefs, where erosion in the near future could exceed reef formation (calcification). This in turn would degrade the reef habitat and result in the destruction of the natural breakwaters formed by corals – a serious consideration in coastal regions commonly hit by heavy storms.

As to the direct physical and geochemical consequences of global warming in the ocean by 2050, they include: reduced seasonal ice zones, increasing stratification (separation) of ocean layers leading to oxygen depletion, increased venting of methane from the bottom of the Arctic Sea, and more common low oxygen -events in the oceans.

Around the globe, fisheries management is still unable to stop overfishing. The decline of key species and damage to the ecosystems where the fish stock live continue. All this undermines the resilience of the oceans.

Unauthorised fishing in the national economic zone: Argentine coast guard proudly presents the foreign fishing vessels detained by its patrol vessel. Photo from Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

Unauthorised fishing in the national economic zone: Argentine coast guard proudly presents the foreign fishing vessels detained by its patrol vessel. Photo from Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

Urgent measures proposed by IPSO and IUCN include:

Reduction of global CO2 emissions to keep temperature rise in less than 2 degrees C.

Implementation of community- and ecosystem-based management and favouring small-scale fisheries. Harmful fisheries’ subsidies resulting in overcapacity would need to be eliminated. In addition, vulnerable ecosystems would need an increased level of protection. Finally, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing would need to to be combated.

Development of a more relevant global infrastructure for high-seas ocean governance is necessary. Especially a new implementing agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is needed (within the United Nations Law of the Sea – UNCLOS – framework).

Progress in Tela reef conservation in Honduras

Text and photos (c) 2013 Erkki “Eric” Siirila, copyright & all rights reserved. 

Some years ago the city of Tela in Honduras was only known for its beaches. No one was aware that underwater additional national heritage could be found. The coral reefs of the Tela Bay are this other treasure.

The Tela Bay in Honduras has coral reefs, the conservation of which needs attention. Photographer and copyright (c) 2013 Erkki Siirila.

The Tela Bay in Honduras has coral reefs, the conservation of which needs attention. Photographer and copyright (c) 2013 Erkki Siirila.

Francois Ligeard, The Chamber of Tourism of Tela, says: “The good news is that we can offer a new site for both the national and international tourist. We have to highlight the fact that this place is very beautiful. It has high cover of live coral. We notice that always when we dive on this reef. One easily gets emotional because every time we go the local reef we find something new and more beautiful.”

Dennis Sierra, The Prolansate Conservation Foundation, Tela, sees the “newly discovered” coral reefs in the following way: “The best news is that in Tela we have many people both in the civil society, local government and the business sector who are very interested in the conservation of the coral banks of the Tela Bay. The preservation needs have an acceptance at the community level. Also at the level of the central government there is a lot of interest in declaring a marine park in the Bay of Tela.”

Only fishing was done on the local Capiro Reef in the past. Nowadays, divers come here to see the angelfish and the many species of coral. For example, black coral is found here.

The coral bank of Capiro is the best known reef area in the Tela waters. Photo and copyright (c) 2013 Erkki Siirila.

The coral bank of Capiro is the best known reef area in the Tela waters. Photo and copyright (c) 2013 Erkki Siirila.

Dennis Sierra: “Logically we look toward the future generations. We need to implement conservation actions in the Bay area, if we want to leave this ecosystem as a heritage to our children. Tela has been favored by God. We have to remember that the natural richness we have in Tela contributes in a positive way to tourism opportunities here. Tela has its future in the resources of that Bay.”

Francois Ligeard: “The biggest challenge we face is to take care of the reef both for our generation and the future generations. We need to get the fishermen and other local people involved to be able to preserve this reef. We have been working already by installing permanent mooring buoys. In this way, we need not anchor the boats and we can stop the damage that has been caused to the reef by anchors in the past.”

The mangroves of the Bay may not be forgotten as reef conservation is promoted. The mangroves produce nutrition for marine life. In addition, among the roots, many species of coral reef fish live during their juvenile stage. The mangroves also protect the coast from the waves of the sea.

The seagrass beds in the Tela waters have functions similar to those of the mangroves. In addition, many reef fish migrate to the seagrass areas in order to eat.

When forests are preserved, there is only little erosion on land and less mud enters the sea via the rivers. This is crucial in reef conservation as the corals need clean and clear water. Related to the above, it is also necessary to develop the treatment of sewage and waste waters.

In the Tela Bay there are very healthy coral colonies. It is important to take care of the reefs, because climate change threatens them, through the elevated sea-water temperatures and through the acidification of the sea.

Coral reefs will be more resistant to global environmental changes, when at the local level there is no overfishing and when the other pressures are kept at the minimum level. In this way, the coral reefs of Tela will produce economic and environmental benefits to us also in the future.

The following Youtube video was shot and produced by the Coastal Challenges’ Editor. It tells the above story of the Tela coral reefs in Spanish. The original is in high definition; this lower-resolution Youtube version can be best seen be adjusting the image resolution under the Youtube window to 480 p.

UN Conference on Sustainable Development: highlights of the Rio+20 final document

At the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio (June 2012), binding new international agreements were not agreed upon, which was disappointing. Nevertheless, the final document is worth summarising in order to highlight the most important common views of the world´s governments as regards sustainable development and the marine environment. Luckily, in the management of seas and oceans important progress was achieved. The following is a summary – with special reference to coasts, seas and oceansof  the final document “The Future We Want”:

The document states that for sound development in general, holistic, integrated and sustainable management of natural resources needs to be promoted. At the same time, economic, social and human development should be supported.  Also, the international community is asked to move the sustainable development agenda forward, through the achievement of internationally agreed goals including the existing Millennium Development Goals. Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is mentioned as one of the important tools available for achieving sustainable development.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. The achievements of the meeting were minor. Only in the “seas and oceans” action area important progress was achieved. Aerial photo of Rio (c) 2012 copyright Erkki Siirila.

The Rio participants recognise the key role that improving energy efficiency plays. This includes the increasing share of renewable energy and cleaner, more energy-efficient technologies. Climate change as a persistent crisis is acknowledged: the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective international response. Naturally, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is needed. Also the related urgent needs of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are mentioned in the final document.

The need for effective, transparent, accountable and democratic natural resources´ management institutions is mentioned in the document. So is the need for contributions towards sustainable development by both the public/private sectors and the scientific/technological communities. We are also reminded of the important role of citizens at the grass-root level, e.g. fishers, in the development of production activities which are environmentally more sound. The valuable contributions by  NGOs in promoting sustainable development are acknowledged.

The establishment of UNEP as a permanent UN organisation (instead of being a non-permanent programme) was not achieved, but it was decided that UNEP would be strengthened. In addition, the participants decided to establish an intergovernmental high-level political forum replacing the current UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

In the final document, the participating states recognise the severity of global biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems: this underlines the importance of biodiversity conservation, enhancing habitat connectivity and building ecosystem resilience.

In the Oceans and Seas chapter of The Future We Want, important progress can be observed. To begin with, the participating states commit to protect and restore the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems, and to maintain their biodiversity for the conservation / sustainable use by the present and future generations. Furthermore, the participants agree to apply an ecosystem approach and the precautionary principle in marine management.

The Rio conference delegations recognise the importance of UNCLOS (Law of the Sea) in advancing sustainable development and they emphasise the need for cooperation in marine scientific research. The states also support the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment (established under the UN General Assembly) and look forward to the completion of its first global integrated assessment by 2014.

In Rio de Janeiro, the participating states supported the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment. The states look forward to the completion of the first global integrated assessment by 2014. The marine image was taken off Callao, Peru, photo copyright (c) 2012 Erkki Siirila.

In the seas and oceans chapter, the importance of the conservation / sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction is recognised. Building on the work of an international working group (and before the end of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly) the Rio participants commit to address this issue on an urgent basis.

The states also note with concern that the health of the oceans and marine biodiversity are negatively affected by marine pollution. The final document mentions marine debris, plastic, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, and nitrogen-based compounds. The sources mentioned include marine and land-based sources, including shipping and land runoff. The participants commit to take action to reduce the incidence and impacts of such pollution on marine ecosystems. The relevant measures would include implementation of IMO conventions and the follow-up of relevant initiatives such as the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. With the help of scientific assessments, the states further commit to take action to significantly reduce marine debris by 2025.

In the seas and oceans chapter the participants note the significant threat which alien invasive species pose to marine ecosystems, and commit to implement measures to prevent their introduction. The management of the adverse environmental impacts will be improved including those alien species adopted in the framework of IMO.

Sea level rise and coastal erosion are noted as serious threats for many coastal regions and islands particularly in developing countries. International action to address these challenges is called for in the final document.

The participating states also call for support to initiatives that address ocean acidification and the impacts of climate change on marine and coastal ecosystems and resources. They reiterate the need to work collectively to prevent further ocean acidification, as well as to enhance the resilience of marine ecosystems and of the communities whose livelihoods depend on them. The importance of marine scientific research, monitoring and observation of ocean acidification and of particularly vulnerable ecosystems through international cooperation are mentioned.

In the Rio final document the participating states stress their concern about the potential environmental impacts of ocean fertilization. They recall the decisions related to ocean fertilization adopted by the relevant intergovernmental bodies, and decide to continue addressing ocean fertilization with utmost caution. The precautionary approach will be applied.

In Rio the participating states promised to intensify the efforts to meet the 2015 target as to maintenance or restoring fisheries stocks to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield on an urgent basis. The photo of the fishing vessel is from the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), copyright (c) 2012 Erkki Siirila.

The Rio participants commit, on an urgent basis, to intensify the efforts to meet the 2015 target as to maintenance or restoring fisheries stocks to levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield. The foreseen time frame is “the shortest time feasible”. To achieve this, the states commit to urgently develop and implement science-based management plans. Fisheries reduction and suspension are listed as management methods. The importance of by-catch reduction and the control of destructive fishing practices are mentioned as well as the importance of impact assessments.

Relating to UNCLOS, the Rio delegations urge states to fully implement the 1995 Agreement on the Conservation and Management of Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. Furthermore, all States are called upon to implement the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the corresponding FAO International Plans of Action and technical guidelines.

The final document acknowledges that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing deprives many countries of a crucial natural resource and remains a persistent threat to their sustainable development. A recommitment to eliminate IUU fishing is presented. Reference is made to the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation which aims at preventing and combating these practices in the following ways: a) by implementing national and regional action plans in accordance with FAO’s international IUU combat plan, b) by identifying vessels engaged in IUU fishing, c) by depriving offenders of the benefits accruing from IUU fishing, and d) by cooperating with developing countries to systematically identify needs and build capacity (monitoring, control, surveillance, compliance and enforcement systems).

The Rio delegations recognise the need for transparency and accountability in fisheries management by regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). The efforts already made by those RFMOs that have undertaken independent performance reviews are recognised. A call is presented on all RFMOs to regularly undertake such reviews, publish the results and implement the recommendations.

Furthermore, the Rio final document reaffirms the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation as to elimination of subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and overcapacity, mentioning the importance of this sector to developing countries. Reference is made to the WTO Doha Development Agenda and the Hong Kong Ministerial mandates for more vigorous control of fisheries subsidies. Prohibition of subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and over-fishing is mentioned as a control measure. States are also encouraged to eliminate subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and over-fishing, to refrain from introducing new such subsidies and to refrain from extending or enhancing existing subsidies.

A commitment to ensure access to fisheries and corresponding markets by fishers (subsistence, small-scale, artisanal) and women fish workers and indigenous peoples is also presented, highlighting the needs of these communities in developing countries and small island developing states.

The importance of coral reef conservation and marine protected areas is highlighted in the final document of the Rio conference on sustainable development. Image from a Red Sea coral reef in Egypt, photo copyright (c) 2012 Erkki Siirila.

As to coral reefs and mangroves, the Rio delegations recognise the significant economic, social and environmental contributions of coral reefs, in particular to islands and other coastal states, as well as the significant vulnerability of the reefs and mangroves to impacts including from climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, destructive fishing practices and pollution. Support for international cooperation is expressed in order to conserve coral reef and mangrove ecosystems and to realise their social, economic and environmental benefits. Facilitation of technical collaboration and voluntary information sharing are mentioned as supporting measures. Surprisingly, sea grass beds are not separately mentioned in the Rio final document. (The importance of healthy sea grass beds as carbon sinks in fighting global climate change has recently been acknowledged by the marine science research community).

In the seas and oceans chapter of The Future We Want, the delegations reaffirm the importance of area-based conservation measures, including marine protected areas, consistent with international law and based on best available scientific information. The participants note decision X/2 of the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, that by 2020, 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are to be conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.

Finally, it may be considered surprising that the importance of managing the sea-land interface as a special area was not mentioned in The Future We Want. As the coastal zone is an area of many opportunities, user conflicts, resource degradation and lost opportunities, it would have been natural to say something in the Rio final document about the need for integrated coastal zone management.

Important progress in shark conservation

In the past, sharks were not appreciated because their importance as ecosystem top predators was not understood. As a result of that and global over exploitation of marine fauna, most shark populations declined to low levels. What contributed to the decline of sharks specifically, were their reproduction levels, which are much lower than those of other fish, i.e. from 2 (two) to 300 (three hundred) juveniles per pregnancy and female shark. Several other fish species produce hundreds of thousands of eggs. Of course, all of these eggs do not get fertilised.

Lately, shark conservation has been slowly advancing, as the value of sharks, approximately 400 species in total, has been understood. Finally, real steps to save the remaining sharks are being taken. Especially the cruel fishing of sharks for fins only, up to 73 million sharks annually, had resulted in a lot of bad publicity. This negative publicity together with pressure from environmental groups made governments and inter-governmental bodies speed up shark conservation measures. Now there is new hope for the sharks worldwide.

As the global species conservation agreement CITES only prohibits the international trade (not fishing) of three shark species, i.e. the white, whale and basking shark, there has been much need for more efficient protection measures. For example Shark Conservation Trust has done a lot of lobbying lately to improve the management measures at the national and international levels. The Trust is a cooperation body of more than one hundred conservation organisations.

Finally there is new hope for the declining shark populations. The image is from Namibia, photographer and copyright (c) 2011 Erkki Siirila.

The recent advances include the following:

Palau, Honduras, Colombia, Mexico, the Maldives, the Marshall Islands, the Bahamas, and the Federated States of Micronesia signed during the UN General Assembly in September 2011 a declaration in which they promise to establish shark conservation areas in their national waters.

In China and Taiwan, where shark fin soup is a highly regarded speciality of the local kitchen, progress also took place. In September a campaign against shark finning started in China. It features Yao Ming, a local basked ball hero, and Richard Branson, a British millionaire. As to Taiwan, towards the end of 2011, the country passed a law which will end shark fishing for fins only at the beginning of January 2012.

In the U.S., the legislative loop holes in the management of shark fisheries were eliminated in 2011. This followed the example given by Australia, where the legislation had been tightened earlier. The Australian observation has been that when the law forces the fisherman to bring to port the entire shark with the fins attached, the interest in shark finning nearly disappears.

Positive news have been heard also from the European Union countries. On 21 November, the European Commission proposed to prohibit, with no exemptions, the practice of shark finning aboard fishing vessels. Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said: “I very much look forward to the Council and the European Parliament accepting our proposal, so that it becomes law as soon as possible.” The proposal strengthens the existing EU legislation banning shark finning: member states will not be able to issue special fishing permits, which earlier have made the continuation of shark finning possible.

Connectivity, coral reefs and marine parks

Water is in constant motion and transports sediments, nutrients and pollutants. At least during one life stage, most marine organisms move within the water stream, either passively or actively. Connectivity is the word used to describe all these movements.

Connectivity is an important consideration in coastal management and in the design of marine protected areas (MPAs) and MPA networks. When fish larvae and fertilized coral eggs move in water currents from one place to another, these movements become crucial for the location of the new generation of these animals.

Most marine organisms on reefs and in coastal waters are relatively sessile during most of their life. This sedentary lifestyle is abandoned during reproduction: most reef species produce pelagic eggs which become pelagic larvae. Some of these pelagic larvae become fish. When fish grow older, they may travel to another location, while juvenile coral colonies will generate a reef where the coral eggs and larvae end up – in case the marine environment is suitable for reef growth.

Some habitats are critical to the early developmental stages of fish, lobster, and shrimp, while others serve as spawning or feeding grounds. Marine organisms also migrate daily and/or seasonally between habitats. The daily shifts commonly involve nightly feeding migrations between feeding and resting habitat. In some fish species, these daily movements lead to nutrient transfer between seagrass/mangrove areas and the coral reef.

Connectivity is an important consideration in the management of this Red Sea coral reef surrounding an Egyptian island. Photo (c) 2010 Erkki Siirila.

The marine ecosystem is so complex that many connectivity issues are poorly known. Nevertheless, this field of marine ecology is advancing: better understanding is crucial for sound marine management.  An example of these advances is the publication in 2010 of “Preserving Reef Connectivity: A Handbook for Marine Protected Area Managers”, which can be found here: Handbook

Special attention in the Handbook (written by P.F. Sale et al., edited by Lisa Benedetti and published by UNU-INWEH), which is the main source for this Coastal Challenges’ article, is given to populational connectivity. This includes

  1. Evolutionary (genetic) connectivity; and
  2. Demographic (ecological) connectivity.

In the Handbook, number 1 is said to “be informative when considering long-term (evolutionary) and large-scale biogeographic dispersal patterns of organisms. It can also be useful for managers wanting to assess the genetic uniqueness of populations when making decisions concerning biodiversity preservation.”

Number 2 “involves the extent of linkages that occurs among nearby local populations of a species due to the exchange of individuals”. This type of connectivity is important for the design and management of marine protected areas (MPAs) and no-take fishery reserves (NTRs), and when we want to know the ideal amount of coral reef habitat to protect.

The results of recent investigations are clear: pelagic larvae do not drift aimlessly in the ocean. They use for example sensory capabilities to minimize the extent of dispersal. In many species the larvae have the capability to settle on suitable reef habitat and specific microhabitats.

Connectivity amongst populations of reef species is primarily due to dispersal during larval life; demographic connectivity takes place on scales of up to tens of kilometers. The concept of demographically well connected populations for example across the Caribbean is not true and belongs to the past. Only genetic (evolutionary) connectivity links these habitats far away from each other, when larvae occasionally get transported beyond the usual dispersal range.

When marine parks are intended to function as fisheries management tools, the smaller scale of demographic connectivity should be taken into consideration in the MPA design – and in the design of MPA networks. This type of connectivity is worth remembering also when coral reefs experience massive destruction (hurricanes, bleaching, crown-of-thorns attacks): demographic connectivity defines the limits of natural re-seeding.

Coastal development may damage important inshore areas used by developing fishes and other organisms. For example, pathways between these and offshore habitats may be disrupted. Negative impacts during an organism’s early life stages may also have consequences for the abundance of adults. In addition, linked food webs may be affected. Furthermore, daily or seasonal migration routes could be disrupted. – MPAs and MPA networks should be large enough to encompass the interlinked habitats.

Spawning aggregations of groupers are an exciting phenomenon in many parts of tropical seas. During large scale oceanic movements and gatherings, species behaving in this manner are vulnerable to overfishing. The spawning sites should be part of no-take fishery reserves (NTRs). (More information on NTRs specifically can be found in “Fully protected marine reserves: a guide” by Callum M. Roberts and Julie P. Hawkins, 2000, which can be downloaded from here: Guide)

In general, NTRs promote fish survival and reproduction even when serious overfishing takes place in the surrounding area. Studies have shown that four positive changes inside NTRs take place. These changes, which may benefit fished populations outside reserves, are summarized in the Handbook on reef connectivity. They are:

  1. Increased reproductive output (increases in fish abundance, spawning biomass, mean age, and body size result in this change)
  2. Higher net export of juveniles and adults (to surrounding fished areas);
  3. Higher net export of eggs and larvae (to surrounding fished areas); and
  4. Protection and recovery of crucial habitats/ecosystems (key underwater areas for the fished species)

The NTR studies indicate that when neighboring NTRs are not more than 10-30 km apart, appropriate levels of populational connectivity exist for most reef species targeted by fishermen. As indicated above, early hydrodynamic models predicted dispersal distances of hundreds of kilometers. Based on new evidence, even relatively small MPAs may be self-sustaining.

In a world of climate change, it is important that coral reefs and other coastal ecosystems are managed as effectively as possible. Their natural resilience can be supported by taking connectivity into consideration.

Living Planet Report and the fisheries’ footprint

“Living Planet Report 2010 – Biodiversity, biocapacity and development” is an important conservation document published in 2010.  As regards coastal zone management, the report presents alarming information of world fisheries.

Under the heading “Focus on our footprint: marine fisheries” the report reminds us of certain key facts:

  • Wild fish is an important food source for billions of people. Nearly 3 billion people get 15% or more of their crucial animal protein intake from fish.
  • Most stocks of the top 10 commercial species – this corresponds to about 30% of marine catches – are either fully exploited or overexploited.  No significant  increases in the catches of these stocks can be expected in the near future.
  • 52% of all marine fish stocks are fully exploited already.
  • 28% of marine fish stocks monitored in 2007 had serious problems. Of these endangered stocks 19% were overexploited, 8% were depleted and only 1% recovering from depletion.
  • The habitats that support the fisheries are important areas to conserve. These areas are not only fish nurseries and spawning grounds. They are important also from the biodiversity point of view.  In addition, they provide coastal protection during storms and support marine-related tourism.

Bad governance is an expression which is used in the Living Planet Report to describe the state of the world fisheries – these two words are likely to be a good summary.

School of small barracudas in the Red Sea. Photo (c) 2010 Erkki Siirila.

What does the Report propose in order to make our fisheries better managed? These are some of the suggestions found in the publication, which concentrates on the human footprint on our planet:

  • Science-based fisheries management can help increase fisheries production in the long term. It also makes the fisheries and marine ecosystems more resistant to pollution, ocean acidification and climate change. Other benefits include safeguarding important food supplies for coastal communities.
  • In order to make fisheries management sustainable, the following needs to occur in specific activity areas: Drastic catch reductions in many marine fisheries need to accepted now in order to have benefits in the long term. Fishing governance needs to be improved especially in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Expansion of aquaculture needs to be balanced with the protection of wild fish stocks, biodiversity and habitats.
  • Overall, fisheries’ biocapacity needs to be increased. This means maintaining fish stocks at optimal population and age levels to maximize growth. At the ecosystem level this means better habitat conservation by establishing protected areas, controlling coastal pollution and curbing carbon dioxide emissions.

The WWF Living Planet Report 2010 can be downloaded from here:

Living Planet Report 2010