In the developing world, more than one billion poor people obtain most of their animal protein from fish and 250 million depend on fishing and aquaculture for their livelihoods. However, with wild fish stocks under increasing stress from climate change, pollution, overfishing and other factors, effectively managing the sustainability of the oceans has never been more important.
The Economist’s World Oceans Summit (22-24 February 2012) brought together experts and leaders to examine how the increasing activity in and around the oceans can be sustainably managed and what this means for those who depend on the oceans for food and income.
"Bringing together divergent points of view to debate, discuss and deconstruct some of the opportunities, myths and rhetoric on the oceans is essential if we are to develop a clear and collective path forward,” said Dr. Stephen Hall, Director General of WorldFish about the World Oceans Summit.
Global demand for fish, especially in the developing world, is increasing. Productivity from wild catch fisheries is expected to remain flat. Aquaculture production will need to increase to fulfill growing global demand for fish.
"...long-term sustainable fisheries will have profound economic and food security consequences that even the fastest growing aquaculture industry cannot compensate for." - Stephen Hall, WorldFish Director General
Aquaculture or fish farming offers considerable potential as a long-term solution for producing large quantities of sustainable seafood, as a means for providing the poor and vulnerable in developing countries with incomes, and as an engine of economic growth.
One session explored the contribution that both aquaculture and capture fisheries can make towards meeting the challenge of feeding a foreseeable population of nine billion people with sustainable animal source protein.
In the session, Stephen noted that the growing aquaculture industry is an increasingly important complement to ocean-based fisheries, and currently provides an estimated 50% of global fish supply for human consumption.
Building on this theme, Stephen argued that sustaining the productivity of the world’s oceans needs international development agencies, government departments and philanthropists to work collectively and further invest in improving governance for the future of global fish stocks.
“Failure to do so and maintain productive, long-term sustainable fisheries will have profound economic and food security consequences that even the fastest growing aquaculture industry cannot compensate for,” argues Dr. Hall.
“At the same time we must also invest in the technologies and policies to support a growing aquaculture industry that also has an enormous contribution to make.”