SUSTAINED and targeted investments in ocean sustainability will bring about better protection of marine resources and at the same time raise the amount of fish to feed vulnerable people around the world.
Increased consumption of fish, as an alternative to meat as a vital protein source, will help drive progress towards the eradication of hunger which is the lynchpin for achieving Sustainable Development Goals set by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu spoke at a panel discussion on fisheries governance along with Bernard Esau, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources of Namibia, and Harald Tom Nesvik, Minister of Fisheries and Seafood of Norway, as well as other experts at the Our Ocean Conference in Oslo.
“Ocean protection will only succeed if we spend financial and brain power in developing sustainable solutions,” Qu said in his keynote address.
The Our Ocean Conference 2019 focussed on themes including climate change, marine pollution and security, sustainable fisheries, as well as its traditional focus on conservation initiatives. The conference, started in 2014 by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry, aims to promote voluntary government pledges to care for the ocean and has since inception generated commitments totalling around US$18 billion and 12.4 million square kilometres of marine protected areas.
“Oceans provide us with enormous services,” Qu said, adding that global per capita fish consumption has risen to 20.3 kilograms a year and that fisheries and aquaculture provide livelihood opportunities to more than ten percent of the world’s population. “If the ocean fails, it is because we fail ourselves.”
Qu warned of a dangerous sustainability divide as fisheries in developed regions become increasingly sustainable, rebuilding stocks, while those in developing regions are not improving at the same pace.
The Director General urged a new push to invest in sustainable ocean growth and a significant effort to boost aquaculture, particularly in Africa.
“Oceans should be addressed as a solution, not a problem,” Qu said.
He proposed a commitment to achieve 100 percent effective sustainability of oceans resources and said that the FAO will host a major symposium in Rome in November to identify the technical solutions needed to achieve this vision.
The Namibian Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources spoke about the overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing that led the near extinction of certain fish species in Namibian waters. Minister Esau said the fisheries industry is vital to the Namibian Economy and therefore needs to be protected at all costs.
He informed participants at the conference that Namibia has invested heavily in the monitoring and management systems and equipment such as patrol vessels to battle illegal fishing in Namibian waters.
“Namibia spends at least US$ 10 million annually which excludes salaries, fisheries research and governance to counter illegal fishing,” Esau said.
According to FAO one-third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished, and climate change is likely to negatively impact stocks in tropical zones.