ADMCF has built its marine programme around shark finning as an area where we see we can leverage our own resources to create impact. Before we stepped into this issue four years ago, there was not a lot of discussion on the topic. We have worked to build and supplement that discussion and ultimately turn it to action.
As part of that effort, two weeks ago ADMCF’s director of environment programs, Sophie le Clue attended Seaweb’s annual seafood summit in Vancouver. Aptly named ‘Responsibility without Borders’, it was attended by more than 700 industry representatives, NGOs and academics, from 30 countries.
These constituents gathered to discuss the different aspects and perspectives of the world’s fisheries. A worrying situation faces our oceans as a result of intense and industrialised overfishing. The picture is fairly bleak with huge environmental impacts and fisheries’ collapse imminent if we carry on business as usual. Not to mention the more immediate demise of certain fish species such as sharks, blue fin tuna, orange roughy and chilean sea bass.
However, with both a heavy industry and NGO presence, the summit showcased the progress that is being made in fisheries management, including improved traceability, the reported recovery of some stocks and on a slightly alternative note, the sustainability of eating seafood when compared to livestock.
Ray Hillborn a well-know fisheries scientist, pointed out that not all capture fisheries are unsustainable – and that fish stocks in aggregate are stable rather than declining, based on data from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Partnerships with NGOs and constructive engagement appeared to be a driving force behind the sustainable seafood ‘movement’ and the improvements that are emerging.
There was however a notable gap in knowledge around seafood production, consumption and fisheries management in Asia and in particular, China. A question raised at the summit hit the nail on the head, :– how can you keep growing sustainable seafood production/consumption without engaging the world’s largest seafood producer and market – the answer posed was simply – you can’t.
According to FAO, China is by far the largest fish-producing country, with production at 47.5 million tonnes in 2008. This represents 17% of the world’s capture fisheries and 62% of world aquaculture production of fish, an impressive figure considering that aquaculture represents 46% of the total fish food supply globally.
Already the world’s largest seafood market, China is touted to become the world’s largest seafood importer by the end of the decade. Annual per capita fish consumption globally is on the rise – 12.6kg/capita in the eighties has risen to 17.2kg/capita by 2009. China accounts for most of the global increase in per capita consumption and is 55% higher than the world average at 26.7kg/capita. Interestingly, Hong Kong with its relatively small population of nearly 7 million, appears to have a voracious appetite for seafood, with per capita consumption at over 64kg/year.
Unfortunately, FAO statistics indicate that room for optimism is limited. Of global fish stocks it estimates that 32% are over-exploited, 53% are fully exploited, 12% moderately exploited and just 3% underexploited. That doesn’t leave much room to satiate the world’s expanding population and appetite for seafood.
For the summit’s tenth anniversary, Seaweb has elected for the first time to host the annual seafood summit in Asia, with Hong Kong as the selected venue for September 2012.
Note: Photo Ray Manning