Saving the Oceans with Sustainable Fisheries

Meaghan Mallari, Development Associate at SeaWeb talks about why sustainable fisheries are more important than ever and what SeaWeb is doing to ensure future generations have access to abundant seafood.

Boats
Daan f. / Flickr

For millennia, the ocean has played an important role in shaping all aspects of life: society, culture, politics, economies, and science. Yet human activity is fundamentally changing the marine environment. The extraordinary natural ability of marine species to recover from human and environmental stressors can be reduced and even destroyed by intensive fishing.

Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, more than 75% of the world's fish populations are exploited to the limit or overfished. As a global commodity, degradation of global fish stocks has severe repercussions well beyond environmental concerns. The world’s economy is tied to the integrity and health of the marine and coastal ecosystems and to the sustainability of the seafood industry. Global fisheries are a vital source of consumption – more than 3.5 billion people depend on the ocean for their primary source of protein. More than a third of the world’s population live within 100 kilometers of the ocean and derive their economic support from endeavors related to global coastlines.

In recent years, the seafood industry has addressed the economic repercussions of over-exploitation through increased efforts toward sustainable practices. Once on the fringes of the seafood industry, today sustainability is now close to the heart of many fisheries, farms, and seafood businesses. Increased expectations for corporate responsibility are buttressed by a growing demand for food from more ethical sources as consumers take a greater interest in social and environmental issues.

Yet, despite the growth in ethical purchasing, lack of knowledge remains an obstacle for people trying to source seafood responsibly. Much remains to be done to change the behavior of those interacting with the ocean, particularly when it comes to the consumption of seafood.

In response, SeaWeb brings to the forefront issues surrounding sustainable seafood, and more broadly sustainable management of marine environments. By disseminating clear, targeted, actionable information, SeaWeb works to change the behavior of those interacting with the sea, especially that of consumers and of professionals who are trying to ethically and responsibly source and purchase seafood.

Beginning on September 6th, SeaWeb will host the 10th International Seafood Summit, an international event bringing together global representatives from the seafood industry and conservation community for in-depth discussions, presentations and networking around the issue of sustainable seafood. The goal of the Summit is to foster dialogue and partnerships that lead to a seafood marketplace that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

This year, the event will be hosted in Hong Kong - the first Summit to be held in Asia.  Hong Kong is the key finance and business center in Asia. In addition to being the primary seafood trading hub in the region and having many well-known seafood markets which sell fish from all around Asia, Hong Kong is also an entry point to mainland China and is readily accessible from destinations around Asia and the rest of the world. Almost 90% of global aquaculture production takes place in Asia, with China alone accounting for more than 66% of world production.

Market
Consumers purchase seafood from an open market in China's Guangdong Province. China is the largest seafood exporter in the world, and 90% of the world's aquaculture production occurs in Asia. Photo: SeaWeb.

 

The sustainable seafood movement has made great strides in the past few years, arguably the biggest paradigm shift ever witnessed in seafood markets, and the Seafood Summit is designed as a forum to cultivate such progress. Set against the landscape of a changing world order – across global politics, markets and environmental change – in what ways can the seafood community, including individual consumers, continue the momentum and further advance sustainability solutions?

 

Resources:

Seafood Watch Buying Guides, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Afishianado Newsletter, SeaWeb

KidSafe Seafood, SeaWeb

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