Fish is one of the most traded food commodities, and global consumption of fish and seafood has more than doubled since 1973. Over the same period, overfishing increased from 7 per cent to 33 per cent of all fish stocks.
To reverse this alarming trend, unsustainable practices in the fishing industry need to be urgently addressed across the entire value chain, from fish to dish.
An example of how this may be achieved comes from the Maldives, an archipelago of around 1,200 coral islands mostly known for its tropical beaches. Fish is the country’s main natural resource and tuna is the country’s primary export good, second only to the tourism industry for its contribution to the country’s economy. Fishing is a family and community-centered economic activity, and associated sectors like fish processing provide an additional source of income, particularly to women.
To ensure that fishing contributes to the long-term well-being of local communities, the Maldives government is encouraging the environmental sustainability of the sector. Maldivian fishermen use a fishing technique called “pole and line”, meaning that they catch the fish one by one – a method that reduces unwanted bycatch and harm to other marine life. This, along with other environmental measures such as restricting coral mining and the protection of turtles and sharks, have helped local ecosystems to recover. Furthermore, the most important local fish species now carry the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)’s ecolabel, which translates into a price premium for local fishermen and the possibility for consumers to make more informed choices.
To share good practice examples, such as the Maldivian case, and discuss specific actions and policy recommendations, the Second Oceans Forum (Geneva, 16-17 July 2018) brought together stakeholders from the fisheries sector to discuss trade-related aspects of SDG 14, safeguard healthy oceans, and make fish trade sustainable.
One important outcome of the Forum was the proposal by UN Environment, the UN Convention on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to develop a Joint Plan of Action focusing on the trade-related aspect of SDG 14. The proposal was welcomed by stakeholders. The agencies are now awaiting their comments and inputs to further develop the Plan.