September 13-16, the United Nations General Assembly, represented by 193 Member States will convene for the First Round of the negotiations on the Sustainable Fisheries Resolution. These negotiations offer the international community a critical opportunity to address the future viability of fisheries in international waters.
The Pew Environment Group urges the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to use the opportunity presented by this year’s Sustainable Fisheries Resolution to agree on measures necessary to reverse the unsustainable trends in global fisheries and to meet the international goal of achieving sustainable fisheries.
Despite the ongoing claims of progress toward sustainability and the many statements and commitments made by fishing States, there has been insufficient action to ensure the future of one of the world’s largest wild protein resources: fish.
Never has the need for sustainable global fisheries been more apparent and never have global fish stocks been more threatened. Overfishing and destructive fishing practices endanger not only the health of these stocks, but also the livelihoods of approximately 540 million people and the food security of some 3 billion people. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg Plan of Implementation) set 2015 as the deadline to restore depleted stocks to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield—a minimum standard of sustainability. The most recent Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) also agreed on the goal that global fisheries meet a high standard of sustainability by 2020:
By 2020 all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably, legally and applying ecosystem based approaches, so that overfishing is avoided, recovery plans and measures are in place for all depleted species, fisheries have no significant adverse impacts on threatened species and vulnerable ecosystems and the impacts of fisheries on stocks, species and ecosystems are within safe ecological limits.
Yet the most recent report on the status of global fisheries, published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), found that overfishing has reached the highest level ever. According to FAO, the proportion of the world’s fish stocks that are fully exploited, over exploited, or depleted has increased—from 75 to 84 percent—in only 5 years. In addition, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU ) fishing remains one of the greatest threats to the health of marine ecosystems worldwide.