Scary cost of that fish on your plate
Scary cost of that fish on your plate
France had a nasty dispute with the UK this month over the latter’s acrimonious divorce from the EU. A French minister has threatened to cut electricity at the British crown dependency of Jersey, which is close to the French coast and derives 75% of its electricity from France. Paris was upset that French fishermen were not allowed to fish near the island.
Fishing is a relatively tiny industry, not only for France and the UK, but for the whole of the EU. Yet some of the fiercest disputes in the Brexit negotiations have been over fishing rights.
According to estimates by environmentalists, there are more than 4 million fishing boats – of all sizes and ages, using technology that spans decades, if not centuries – working on the water around the world. . This is about 2.5 times the number needed for all the world’s catches. Subsidies from most countries, from the richest to the poorest, have allowed fleets to stay afloat, even though such actions are neither sustainable nor competitive.
The large fleet and the subsidies also allow the overfishing and depletion of fish stocks around the world, which is one of the biggest challenges for sustainable development. There have been international agreements and efforts by some countries to adopt sustainable fishing practices, but these have proven to be too few to be truly effective. As a result, the proportion of global fish stocks that are fished in a sustainable manner has declined every year since 1990.
According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the production and consumption of fish has steadily increased worldwide since 1990, reaching an all-time high in 2018, when total production of fish increased 122 percent. This growth has come at a high price, as global fish stocks at biologically sustainable levels have grown from a good 90 percent in 1990 to 65.8 percent in 2018.
However, real world consumption of fishery products has grown much faster than the growth in sea fishing indicates. Since 1990, aquaculture – the rearing of aquatic animals and plants using fresh or saline water, inland as well as near the coast – has taken off, increasing by 517 percent to hundred. Aquaculture production in 2018 reached a record high of 114.5 million tonnes, far more than the 96.4 million tonnes of fish caught in natural stocks.
Global fish stocks at biologically sustainable levels increased from 90 percent in 1990 to 65.8 percent in 2018.
Ranvir S. Nayar
Many countries and fisheries stakeholders claim that the expansion of aquaculture has helped to maintain natural fish stocks at sustainable levels, as much higher global demand for marine products is met by aquaculture production. But this is a fallacious argument.
Aquaculture sites around the world, especially in developing countries, have left a mark of total ecological destruction, starting with the pollution of water and soil through the liberal use of chemical pesticides and fish feed. . The wastewater discharged from these aquaculture farms is often untreated and overloaded with fish feed, antibiotics and dung, resulting in severe soil and groundwater pollution if the farm is indoors. land and destruction of mangroves and coastal ecosystems in the case of agriculture in coastal areas. The latter is the dominant type in most Asian countries, which account for 90 percent of world aquaculture production.
Studies show that coastal ecosystems are often completely destroyed by intensive aquaculture, especially in the case of artificial ponds created for tropical shrimp farming. Mangroves, one of the most important elements of coastal ecosystems, are completely destroyed, causing the disappearance of all the species that used to shelter among the trees. Mangroves are also the most important natural barrier against storms and tsunamis.
Another risk in aquaculture, but not at the same level, is farmed fish that escape into natural water bodies and then interact with wild or natural fish. This often leads to disease outbreaks among the natural stock due to contamination from farmed fish.
Climate change, particularly global warming, which poses a major challenge to marine life, complements the threat scenario facing the global marine ecosystem. Rising ocean temperatures have already started to impact the spawning of a wide variety of fish, as many species are forced to move thousands of miles away from their traditional spawning grounds. In addition, changes in weather systems also have an impact on the survival of adult fish.
A study by the University of Melbourne and the University of Tasmania indicates that the combined effects of rapidly warming oceans and the practice of targeting large fish are affecting the viability of wild populations and global fish stocks. The study was the first to combine the impact of warming oceans and overfishing and explain how this has led to a sharp decline in the proportion of young fish in natural fish stocks. Most worrying is that the magnitude of this impact was clearly evident after four generations of fish – more than a decade. The study clearly underscores the urgent need for scientists, governments and the global fishing industry to examine the long-term impacts of their current practices and to make urgent adjustments.
Otherwise, depleted stocks and pollution of water and land resources will harm the hundreds of millions of people who directly depend on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods, not to mention the billions who enjoy having delicious seafood. on their plates.
- Ranvir S. Nayar is the editor-in-chief of Media India Group.
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