Food Security and Marine Capture Fisheries: Characteristics, Trends, Drivers, and Future Perspectives

In 2006, marine capture fisheries produce 82 million tons of fish a year and may have now reached up to 100 million tons, a possible upper limit.  An important source of protein, vitamins, and micronutrients, particularly for low-income populations in rural areas, fisheries, which include 32 million tons from inland aquaculture and 20 million tons from marine aquaculture, play a critical role in global food security.  While demand is high, marine populations are highly stressed by excessive fishing pressure, toxic contamination, pollution, costal degradation, and climate change.  How fisheries are governed and the success of related international and national policy will play a crucial role in ensuring that marine capture fisheries continue feeding the world.–Alyshia Silva
Garcia, S.M., Rosenberg, A.A., 2010. Food Security and Marine Capture Fisheries: Characteristics, Trends, Drivers, and Future Perspectives. Philosophical Transitions of the Royal Society 365, 2869–2880

          By 2050, the world’s population will reach 9 billion, mostly in the developing world (5.6–7.9 billion).  Fishery resources are an important part of the world’s daily diet, especially for low-income populations in developing countries.  At least 20% of fisheries are moderately exploited while 52% are fully exploited, 19% are overexploited, 8% are depleted, and 1% is recovering from previous depletion.  These numbers could lead to the permanent decline of fish populations, leaving the world to solve a significant new food deficit.  Other issues of marine capture fisheries include 11–26 million tons of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing as well as 9.5 million tons of discarded unwanted catch.
          Destructive and IUU fishing can cause great environmental harm in itself, especially when resulting in marine debris from lost gear that continue to fish and entangle wildlife.  It greatly affects the food web and can alter the ecosystem function and structure while lessening productivity and resilience to other drivers such as climate change. 
          Fish overall are important as a means of food and livelihood, especially for the poor.  At least 1.5 billion people rely on fish as 20% of their average per capita intake of animal protein, the majority of these populations coming from low-income food deficit countries.  About 110 million tons of produced fish are used for food directly while 33 million tons are used as fishmeal.  Around 42 million people work directly in the fishing sector while related activities support at least 500 million livelihoods.  Overall, fisheries and aquaculture sector contribute about 0.5–2.5% of a country gross domestic product (GDP).  Poverty within these low-income countries may contribute to over fishing; however, healthy fisheries can contribute to poverty reduction through generation of revenues and wealth-creation. 
          World population is a key driver in fish demand, and with the rise in population and 70% of this population moving to cities, especially ones near coasts, and demand will rise with increased levels of development and living standards.  An increasingly globalized market will increase demand as well, and enhance competition.  The governance frameworks adopted at the national, regional, and global levels are intended interact in a “continuous but asynchronous manner (i.e. developing at different speeds in different places)”.  Weak governance, on the other hand, has become a major problem mostly due to incomplete jurisdictions and the lack of clear and defendable entitlements. 
          With increasing globalization comes a need to solve issues with an inter-disciplinary focus, dealing with economics, environment, and the human perspective.  Global climate change in itself will test not only humanity’s ability to reduce consumption and find environmentally sustainable means of fish production, but will test the ecosystem’s resilience and ability to adapt.  The ecosystem’s ability to produce fish, stability of supply, and access to food will be affected by global climate change, and methodologies incorporating both the social and hard sciences will be needed to adequately address these issues. 
          Although global food security might change minimally, local consequences will be drastic, particularly in poor coastal areas.  A reduction of harvesting capacity will result in consequences for both humans and the environment and we need to address key inter-connected global/local issues to smartly use our resources.  Without key governance building, fishery resources will drop.  We must look to maintain and optimize current production and profitability in terms of quality and quantity.  The fishing industry will need, with the help of government, to adapt its technology to changing resources and to support small fisheries that would otherwise create disenfranchised coastal communities.  Fisheries governance is a unique combination of public, private, and hybrid institutions and utilizing these administrators is crucial to creating a holistic, multi-disciplinary solution for both people and place.  

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