Posted by Victor Restrepo
9 May 2012
I’m in Edinburgh, Scotland this week for the 6th World Fisheries Congress held by the World Council of Fisheries Societies. The council’s mission is a lot like ISSF’s—we both aim to promote international cooperation in fisheries science, further sustainable management practices, encourage excellence in research and improve the use of fishery resources.
The themes of this year’s conference are especially relevant: meeting the increasing food and nutrition needs; resilience and adaptive management governance; biodiversity, food security and the need for Ecosystem management; and the science underpinning sustainable fisheries. The Congress’ speakers are a diverse group, including students, researchers, fishers, NGOs, politicians, etc., all of whom are interested in ensuring healthier and more productive fisheries; they also hail from all over the world, countries like Chile, Denmark, South Africa, Zambia and Japan.
Yesterday, there were great opening addresses. Ray Hilborn gave an excellent and provocative presentation comparing the impacts, measured at different levels, of various types of protein production. It evident from the available data that capture fisheries tend to have much lower impacts than other forms of food production. So he raised a very interesting question: If we just about stopped fishing as many groups are asking for so that oceans become pristine again, that protein that is foregone (over 80 million tons) must be replaced from increased land production; what would the environmental cost be? His answer: Huge!
Another great opening address was given by Mike Mitchell of Young’s Seafood in the UK. He spoke in general about responsible seafood sourcing and had a great message: No one group alone holds the key to sustainability. Not fishers, not scientists, not politicians. The work to achieve sustainability needs to be a collective effort.
A third address was given by HRH the Prince of Wales who gave an overview of work that his International Sustainability Unit Marine Program plans to undertake. The ISU is keen to facilitate new initiatives to improve the collection and reporting of data that are needed for science-based management, especially in developing countries. It is great to see that a Charity with such huge convening power is interested in such a basic, yet hugely important, problem.
Yesterday, I gave an overview of ISSF as a partnership that aims to facilitate improvements in tuna fisheries worldwide. It was well received, as were many other presentations in my session that highlighted the positive changes that can occur when the fishing industry, the processing and retail sectors, scientists and decision-makers work together to achieve sustainability. While ISSF focuses on tuna, there are many other species with sustainability challenges. There is great potential for all of us to learn from what’s working in fisheries that we may not be as familiar with.
You can read more about this week’s program and the Council online, just click here.