Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Common Fisheries Policy & World Aquaculture 2009: charting new courses in commercial fishing

On a similar note to Monday's post, there is a push to revise the European Union's overall fisheries management and an important conference coming up this month regarding aquaculture.

In the 70's, EU fishermen began working together to determine fishing ground rights and levels of equal access. Out of that came the Common Fisheries Policy in 1983 which was supposed to conserve marine resources to, both, protect the environment and sustain the EU commercial fishing industry. Unfortunately, even with several revisions, it has failed to live up to its expectations and populations of popular commercial seafood like cod, sole, and other species are in rapid decline.

So, another reformation of the policy is being considered by the European Commission, following the release of a critical report, Green Paper on a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. The key challenge: too many boats, too little fish. To meet demand, the fishing industry expanded capacity (more boats), but without sensible catch limits in place or enforced, then this expanded capacity has greatly reduced the population of many commercial species. Rather than reduce capacity, the industry was subsidized - which means the expanded fleet was able to continue overfishing a dwindling population since their lost revenue was being covered by the government. That may have made business sense, but from a conservation point of view it meant a grim future for many marine species.

To provide any future for the various marine species and the commercial fishing industry as well, there will have to be some tough decisions that will have to be made regarding an industry that has expanded itself to the point of collapse.

And this is where the next bit of news comes in. Perhaps those in the commercial fishing industry who are faced with a loss of business can consider making a transition into aquaculture (aquafarming). There will be a major conference on aquaculture on September 25-29.
Sponsored by the World Aquaculture Society, World Aquaculture 2009 will be held in Veracruz, Mexico. Kind of an industry convention for aquaculture, the event will include speakers, panels, and symposiums along with displays from various suppliers in the industry.

As a proponent of aquaculture but one who also recognizes that it is in its infancy and has some major environmental hurdles to overcome, I hope there will be some good that comes out of the event. In my mind, aquaculture is the only viable option that we have in supplying seafood products without damaging the ocean populations and the supporting ecosystems. Unfortunately, I believe that "sustainable seafood" is only a stop gap measure - placing a finger in the dike, as it were - and to make any truly sustainable effort to meet demand, aquafarming must be aggressively pursued and all its technological and environmental issues must be addressed and solved.

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