Ocean fish to disappear in 40 years: UN
AFP - Tuesday, May 18
NEW YORK (AFP) - – The world faces the nightmare possibility of
fishless oceans by 2050 unless fishing fleets are slashed and stocks
allowed to recover, UN experts warned.
"If the various estimates we have received... come true, then we are in
the situation where 40 years down the line we, effectively, are out of
fish," Pavan Sukhdev, head of the UN Environment Program's green
economy initiative, told journalists in New York.
A Green Economy report due later this year by UNEP and outside experts
argues this disaster can be avoided if subsidies to fishing fleets are
slashed and fish are given protected zones -- ultimately resulting in a
The report, which was opened to preview Monday, also assesses how
surging global demand in other key areas including energy and fresh
water can be met while preventing ecological destruction around the
UNEP director Achim Steiner said the world was "drawing down to the
very capital" on which it relies.
However, "our institutions, our governments are perfectly capable of
changing course, as we have seen with the extraordinary uptake of
interest. Around, I think it is almost 30 countries now have engaged
with us directly, and there are many others revising the policies on
the green economy," he said.
Environmental experts are mindful of the failure this March to push
through a worldwide ban on trade in bluefin tuna, one of the many
species said to be headed for extinction.
Powerful lobbying from Japan and other tuna-consuming countries
defeated the proposal at the CITES conference on endangered species in
But UNEP's warning Monday was that tuna only symbolizes a much vaster
catastrophe, threatening economic, as well as environmental upheaval.
One billion people, mostly from poorer countries, rely on fish as their
main animal protein source, according to the UN.
The Green Economy report estimates there are 35 million people fishing
around the world on 20 million boats. About 170 million jobs depend
directly or indirectly on the sector, bringing the total web of people
financially linked to 520 million.
According to the UN, 30 percent of fish stocks have already collapsed,
meaning they yield less than 10 percent of their former potential,
while virtually all fisheries risk running out of commercially viable
catches by 2050.
Currently only a quarter of fish stocks -- mostly the cheaper, less
desirable species -- are considered to be in healthy numbers.
The main scourge, the UNEP report says, are government subsidies
encouraging ever bigger fishing fleets chasing ever fewer fish, with
little attempt made to allow the fish populations to recover.
The annual 27 billion dollars in government subsidies to fishing,
mostly in rich countries, is "perverse," Sukhdev said, since the entire
value of fish caught is only 85 billion dollars.
As a result, fishing fleet capacity is "50 to 60 percent" higher than
it should be, Sukhdev said.
Creating marine preservation areas to allow female fish to grow to full
size, thereby hugely increasing their fertility, is one vital solution,
the report says.
Another is restructuring the fishing fleets to favor smaller boats that
-- once fish stocks recover -- would be able to land bigger catches.
"What is scarce here is fish," Sukhdev said, "not the stock of fishing