A report out this week, “Resources Futures” by the venerable U.K. NGO, the Chatham House, issues a clarion call for wiser management of the world’s finite resources. In the face of a more crowded planet in the coming century, as billions aspire to a resource-intensive western lifestyle, pressure on the world’s food systems and its reserves of raw materials could become more acute.
This is especially true for the world’s fisheries and the report singles out practices, like unnecessarily generous subsidies for fishing fleets and the wide-scale waste of discarded fish as adding to the global decline of fish stocks. Interestingly, the report also asserts that overfishing poses not only a major threat to food security, but to broader world security as well. The authors write:
“Given the importance of fishing to livelihoods in many poor and rural areas, over-fishing can have other effects on security. Analysts have linked the rise of piracy off the Horn of Africa in recent years, for example, with the inability of the Somali state to prevent the overfishing of Somali waters by European, Asian and African ships. The reduction in fish stocks essentially raises the cost of legitimate livelihood. As one account puts it, ‘in a region where legitimate business is difficult, where drought means agriculture is nothing more than subsistence farming, and instability and violence make death a very real prospect, the dangers of piracy must be weighed against the potentially massive returns.’ Some pirates have even used this as a justification for their actions, arguing that they are protecting their resources and that ransom payments should be seen as a form of legitimate taxation. Overfishing also played an important role in the development of piracy in Southeast Asia.”
This is one source of conflict that could perhaps be mitigated with better management. Even with a growing population that is expected to top 9 billion by mid-century, the world’s fisheries are not destined for decline. A recent study in the journal Science argues that simple conservation measures, like setting scientific-based fishing quotas and protecting critical habitat could increase fishery yields by up to 40 percent.
To find out more about how we can restore the world’s oceans to a state of relative abundance, check out Oceana’s report issued earlier this year about how by saving the oceans we can feed the world.