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World fish consumption unsustainable
by FAO, Guardian News, Global Fishing Watch, agencies
Sept. 2018
New rules for High Seas must include Needs of Poorest Nations, highlights Essam Yassin Mohammed, Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
Over-fishing, warming oceans and plastic pollution dominate the headlines when it comes to the state of the seas. Most of the efforts to protect the life of the ocean and the livelihoods of those who depend on it are limited to exclusive economic zones – the band of water up to 200 nautical miles from the coast.
But to be truly effective, all of the ocean needs to be protected. The high-seas that lie beyond national jurisdictions; two-thirds of the ocean’s surface remain largely ungoverned.
The world has a new opportunity this week to move a step closer to addressing these issues as UN members start negotiating an international legally binding treaty to protect the high seas. (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, 4-17 September). The first of four rounds of negotiations that will continue until 2020.
Despite the common perception that the high seas are too remote to matter to coastal communities, strong scientific evidence shows the ocean is a highly interconnected ecosystem. For example, a number of fish species use the high seas at different stages of their lifecycle for feeding and spawning, which is why protecting it is critically important to coastal communities’ livelihoods and economies.
For these negotiations to be effective and fair, it is crucial the people living in coastal communities in the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS) are listened to and have an active role in protecting and sustainably managing the ocean. They are among those most affected by the impacts of how the ocean is used and protected, from fishing to conservation measures.
Any measure to govern these waters must make sure that any activity in these waters benefits everyone, particularly the poorest countries.
The ocean as a whole is recognised by international law as a common heritage of mankind; it belongs to everyone, now and forever. But most developing countries do not have the financial or technological means to share the benefits it provides.
To make sure they have equal access, it is crucial this treaty establishes a mechanism that enables them to share its benefits. Monetary benefits can be best shared by establishing a trust fund.
This, as is the case with such governing bodies as the International Seabed Authority, would enable coastal communities to build their capacities and become involved in monitoring the environmental health of the seas.
And they would be able to participate proactively in research and development, and sustainably use the high seas as a source for medicines, science and other genetic resources.
It could be financed from a percentage of the profits that wealthier countries make through economic activities on the high seas whether from extraction of marine genetic resources or any other activity.
The equitable distribution of benefits from conservation of the high seas should also be at the core of the negotiations. It is important that any new global agreement recognises that when protected areas are designated they consider how they will affect coastal communities across the global south.
These areas linking territorial waters to the high seas are critical both for protecting marine species and helping to restore coastal fisheries, which are vital to sustaining the livelihoods of people in poor coastal communities.
One of the biggest threats to marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is overfishing. Studies show that fishing in the high seas is unprofitable and are only economically viable because governments subsidies large fishing fleets. It is important that in this first round of talks, governments agree clear steps to end all harmful subsidies.
Instead, these subsidies should be directed towards activities that deliver positive social and environmental results. By providing support for monitoring and surveillance of marine protected areas, giving incentives to fishers for not using damaging fishing practices, and enhancing access to markets and services including by providing support for storage facilities, poor coastal communities and fishers will be able to benefit from ocean-friendly investment.
We cannot afford to keep the status quo. These negotiations are an opportunity to establish a new legally binding treaty that is fair and equitable for everyone. This is about sustainably sharing 50 per cent of the planet with 100 per cent of the world’s population.
It is crucial the needs of the poor are heard at every stage of this process to make sure they are not left behind in the drive to govern the life of the oceans.
July 2018
One in three fish caught around the world never makes it to the plate, either being thrown back overboard or rotting before it can be eaten, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Its biannual report on the state of the world’s fisheries, released this week, also shows that total fish production has reached a record high thanks to more fish farming, particularly in China, with over half the fish eaten in the world now coming from aquaculture.
The report highlights that at least a third of commercial fish species are overfished, the FAO says. Fish farms will continue to expand and the FAO projects that almost 20% more fish will be eaten by 2030. However, farmed fish can harm wild populations because often their feed, made from wild fish such as sardines and anchovies, is caught at sea and they can cause pollution.
Fish are a crucial source of nutrition for billions of people around the globe, but overfishing is rife in some regions, with two-thirds of species over-exploited in the Mediterranean and Black Seas and the Southeast Pacific. Previous analyses that include estimates for illegal fishing indicate that wild fish stocks are declining faster than FAO data suggest and that half the world’s oceans are now industrially fished.
“Since 1961 the annual global growth in fish consumption has been twice as high as population growth, demonstrating that the fisheries sector is crucial in meeting the FAO’s goal of a world without hunger and malnutrition,” said Jose Graziano da Silva, FAO director general.
The FAO reports that 35% of global catches are wasted. About a quarter of these losses are bycatch or discards, mostly from trawlers, where unwanted fish are thrown back dead because they are too small or an unwanted species. But most of the losses are due to a lack of knowledge or equipment, such as refrigeration or ice-makers, needed to keep fish fresh. The FAO is working with developing nations to cut such losses.
The FAO report sets out the huge scale of global fishing: it employs 60 million people and there are 4.6m fishing vessels on the planet. This huge effort is worrying in many places, the FAO says, with too many boats chasing too few fish.
As a result, the number of species being overfished has trebled in the last 40 years. The report also states that climate change will drive fish away from warm tropical waters, where nations are often especially reliant on seafood, towards more temperate regions.
Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe, said huge improvements were needed across the fishing industry. “Food waste on a hungry planet is outrageous,” he said. “The fact that one-third of all fish caught goes to waste is a huge cause for concern for global food security.”
On overfishing, particularly in the Mediterranean, he said: “We know the situation, we have the solutions: setting fish catch limits to scientific advice and stopping illegal and destructive fishing. All we’re missing is political action.”
Gustavsson added: “Aquaculture is far from being the magic bullet, as it is often unsustainable. Using 20m tonnes of fish like mackerel, sardines and anchovies to feed farmed fish instead of people is a blatant waste of food.”
Prof Daniel Pauly, at the Sea Around Us research initiative at the University of British Columbia, Canada, has been very critical of previous FAO reports, which he says significantly underestimated the total catch by failing to account for illegal fishing.
But he welcomed the new report for considering a wider range of information: “The crisis of overfishing will be hard to solve. However, collaborations between different stakeholders may help turn around some of the negative trends. This is the best issue of the FAO fisheries report that I have ever read.”
* Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing remains one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems due to its potent ability to undermine national and regional efforts to manage fisheries sustainably as well as endeavours to conserve marine biodiversity. IUU fishing takes advantage of corrupt administrations and exploits weak management regimes, in particular those of developing countries lacking the capacity and resources for effective monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS).
IUU fishing is found in all types and dimensions of fisheries; it occurs both on the high seas and in areas within national jurisdiction, it concerns all aspects and stages of the capture and utilisation of fish, and it may sometimes be associated with organized crime. Fisheries resources available to bona fide fishers are removed by IUU fishing, which can lead to the collapse of local fisheries, with small-scale fisheries in developing countries proving particularly vulnerable. Products derived from IUU fishing can find their way into overseas trade markets thus throttling local food supply. IUU fishing therefore threatens livelihoods, exacerbates poverty, and augments food insecurity.
* The current true scale of IUU fishing is inadequately determined.
Feb. 2018
Half of world''s oceans now fished industrially, maps reveal.
More than half the world’s oceans are being fished by industrial vessels, new research reveals. The maps based on feedback from more than 70,000 vessels show commercial fishing covers a greater surface area than agriculture, and will raise fresh questions about the health of oceans and sustainability of trawler fishing.
The data, published in the journal Science, also shows how fishing declines sharply at weekends, and celebrations like Christmas and Chinese new year.
The data also helps to explain the extreme decline in some fish stocks: the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates at least one-third of commercial fish stocks are being caught at unsustainable levels.
But the clear impact of cultural and political events on fishing also offers hope that humans can restrain overfishing, said the report’s author, David Kroodsma.
“What that means is we have control as humans to decide how we’re fishing the oceans: we’re not destined to overfish, we can control it,” said Kroodsma.
Kroodsma and colleagues gathered 22bn pieces of information from satellite systems installed in the biggest fishing vessels, and some smaller ones, usually operating closer to shore.
From this work from 2014 to 2016 they produced maps of where fishing activity was happening, and where it was the most intense. The blue to yellow colouring showing fishing activity covers most of the world’s oceans.
Exceptions are the vast Southern Ocean, far from home and suffering extreme cold and dramatic storms; and striking black “holes” in more heavily used seas, which are either lesser-used exclusive economic zones, and “deserts” in the seas where there are too few fish and crustaceans to catch.
Latest estimates have suggested the extent of fishing was even greater, but faced with such intense data and dramatic maps, the team were still stunned by how far the biggest ships roamed.
“It is really surprising to look at the map and see how much fishing there is,” said Kroodsma.
The research was led by Kroodsma, research and development director for US-based charity Global Fishing Watch. The paper is written with academics from the universities of California, Stanford and Dalhousie in Canada, plus National Geographic and others.
Among other findings is that five countries account for 85% of commercial fishing measured by hours at sea. Half of that is China; other large-scale operators include Spain, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
On average, every person on the planet eats 20kg of fish each year, with the FAO’s own estimates suggesting this makes up 20% of protein eaten.
The figure is much higher in some developing countries, however, where people on islands and in coastal areas rely heavily on fish for their energy, up to 70% of protein in some cases.
The fish protein being measured is also caught in inland waters, and aquaculture, the controversial practice of large-scale fish farming, has expanded rapidly in recent years.
The data showed the “human face” of fishing, said Elvira Poloczanska of the research group, the Alfred Wegener Institute of Ecophysiology in Germany.
“High-seas fisheries governance has the potential to reduce the risks from climate change - for example through international co-operation and the closure of high-seas areas to fishing,” she added.
Dec. 2017
Oceans under greatest threat in history, warns David Attenborough. (Guardian News)
The world’s oceans are under the greatest threat in history, according to Sir David Attenborough. The seas are a vital part of the global ecosystem, leaving the future of all life on Earth dependent on humanity’s actions, he says.
Attenborough issues the warning in the final episode of the BBC Blue Planet 2 series, which details the damage being wreaked in seas around the globe by climate change, plastic pollution, overfishing and even noise.
“For years we thought the oceans were so vast and the inhabitants so infinitely numerous that nothing we could do could have an effect upon them. But now we know that was wrong,” says Attenborough. “It is now clear our actions are having a significant impact on the world’s oceans. They are under threat now as never before in human history. Many people believe the oceans have reached a crisis point.”
Attenborough says: “Surely we have a responsibility to care for our blue planet. The future of humanity, and indeed all life on Earth, now depends on us.”
The Blue Planet series producer, Mark Brownlow, said it was impossible to overlook the harm being caused in the oceans: “We just couldn’t ignore it – it wouldn’t be a truthful portrayal of the world’s oceans. We are not out there to campaign. We are just showing it as it is and it is quite shocking.”
The programme also filmed on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016, witnessing the worst bleaching event in its history. Climate change is causing ocean temperatures to rise, bleaching the corals vital as nurseries for ocean life, and waters are warming rapidly in Antarctica too.
Jon Copley, from the University of Southampton and one of many scientists appearing in the series, says. “What shocks me about what all the data shows is how fast things are changing here in Antarctica. We’re headed into uncharted territory”
Carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning also dissolves in seawater, making it more acidic. Prof Chris Langdon, at the University of Miami, says it is “beyond question” that the problem is manmade. “The shells and the reefs really, truly are dissolving. The reefs could be gone by the end of the century.”
The noise from shipping, tourism, and fossil fuel exploration is also revealed as harming sea life. Steve Simpson, at the University of Exeter, who works on coral reefs in southeast Asia, says: “There is a whole language underwater that we are only just getting a handle on. They use sound to attract a mate, to scare away a predator. You hear pops and grunts and gurgles and snaps.” He shows the noise of motorboats distracting clownfishes from warning against a predator attack.
The Blue Planet 2 team found plastic everywhere they filmed, even in the most remote locations such as South Georgia island, an important breeding site for albatrosses. There, Lucy Quinn from the British Antarctic Survey says many chicks are killed by plastic fed to them by their parents.
Overfishing, which remains prevalent around the world, is also addressed. “Every night thousands of miles of fishing lines laden with hooks are set – there is enough, it is said, to wrap twice around the world,” says Attenborough.
Lucy Quinn says the oceans are of vital importance for the whole world: “The oceans provide us with oxygen, they regulate temperature, they provide us with food and energy supplies. It is unthinkable to have a world without a healthy ocean.”
Daniel Pauly, who leads the Sea Around Us programme at the University of British Columbia in Canada, endorsed its stark conclusion. He said vast, subsidised fishing fleets were scraping the bottom of the barrel and that ocean acidification could be terminal for many species.
Pauly also warned of the dangers of plastic attracting toxic chemicals and then being eaten: “They become poison pills.” Pauly said the question facing humanity now was simple: “Are we going to fight for the oceans or not?”

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Reducing NCDs globally: the under-recognised role of environmental risk factors
by The Lancet Medical Journal
July 2018
This month, the World Health Organization Independent High-Level Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) published a set of recommendations to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Target 3.4 for reducing NCDs by 2030.
Unfortunately, this globally important report had a major omission: recognising the detrimental role of environmental risk factors, beyond the conventional behavioural factors (tobacco and alcohol use, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet), in enhancing global NCD burden and health inequality.
First, there was no mention of environmental toxic elements (such as arsenic, copper, lead, cadmium, and mercury). In recent decades, toxic element exposure has become a global public health concern as emerging evidence suggests that even at lower average exposure levels (which are common in many global regions including the west) these toxic elements may have a considerable detrimental effect on NCD outcomes.
For example, high levels of arsenic from contaminated drinking water and foods affects over 200 million people in 70 countries, and has been linked to a wide range of cardiovascular and neoplastic conditions. These effects are exerted via oxidative stress, inflammation, genotoxicity, epigenetic dysregulation, and perturbations in the gut microbiome.
Second, recent estimates show that over 5·5 million people die prematurely every year due to household and outdoor air pollution.
Whereas the main contributors to outdoor air pollution are anthropogenic emissions such as from traffic and industry, indoor air pollution—a major problem in the resource-poor countries—derives principally from combustion of unprocessed solid biomass for cooking in approximately 90% of households. The current report only briefly alludes to the outdoor air pollution.
Third, the current report appears to be somewhat inconsistent with an earlier report, in which WHO recognised that certain chemicals—such as arsenic, lead, and airborne particulate matter—as important risk factors for NCDs, estimating that 23% of global premature deaths could be prevented through healthier environments.
The current WHO report, therefore, would benefit greatly by explicitly recognising the importance of major environmental risk factors—such as toxic chemicals and indoor and outdoor air pollution—in reducing NCD burden, beyond the roles of conventional behavioural risk factors.
Such considerations are essential to gain wider sociopolitical support for promoting appropriate legislation to regulate water, food, and air quality; national and regional standards for environmental health protection; and adequate investments towards reducing NCDs attributed to these major global determinants.

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