Rio+20 : overfishing puts oceans in danger

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French specialist of oceans, Daniel Pauly says that oceans are in danger due to overfishing.

The last Earth Summit was 20 years ago. How are the oceans?

Globally the situation has worsened. Fish harvesting capacity has reached levels that are completely incompatible with ocean productivity. Apart from the United States and Australia, no other country has considerably reduced its fishing levels.

Why doesn’t anybody react in spite of this widely recognised/ situation?

Consumption of sea products is on the increase. In developed countries, they are above all luxury items but in developing countries, it is population and income growth that are responsible for increased fish consumption. This is in complete contradiction with what is known about marine resources. The industry is deeply involved and it is becoming uncontrollable. How can the fishing industry be influenced? Reducing subsidies would be excellent leverage because deep-sea fishing requires fuel and technology. But often, governments do not control the fishing industry. Since 1950, fisheries have been heading towards the South as stocks diminish at an annual rate of 0.8° a year. Only heavily subsidised flotillas can compete, thus creating an increasingly wide divide with poor countries.

Should the governance of oceans be changed?

At the moment, there is no governance of the high seas beyond Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). In EEZs, countries theoretically have legal means to control fishing but it is the privilege of the rich. In Mauritania or in Senegal for example, European and Asian flotillas enter EEZs. We need an international authority but governments would have to agree to give up some of their powers and their authority for this to be possible.

Are marine protected areas and MSC certification solutions?

Marine protected areas are essential but the Rio objectives (10 % protected area coverage) have not been achieved. We should encourage the development of very large areas like those in Hawaii or Chagos that are highly protected and easier to supervise. The MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) label may bring some order to the chaos but ist now issues licences to fisheries that shouldn’t be licensed.

How do you think the situation will have changed in 20 years time?

In 20 years, we will have such major problems that the marketing of tuna will be the least of our problems. Maybe, if humanity is able to solve its climate, freshwater and agricultural production problems, it will be able to solve the problem of overfishing. We must find the key for change but it is unlikely we will find it in the ocean.

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