The world is seeing some positive trends on fishery-related targets under the Sustainable Development Goals, but there’s still a long way to go in tapping the sector’s potential to help feed the world, especially by making better use of aquaculture.
That was the message from QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as he addressed an Interactive Dialogue on “Making Fisheries Sustainable and providing access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets” at the UN Ocean Conference here today.
“Our oceans, rivers and lakes can help feed the world, but only if we use their valuable resources responsibly, sustainably and equitably,” Qu said in a keynote address at the event.
The FAO Director-General underlined the vital importance of achieving SDG14 on Life Below Water. FAO, as the main global forum for fisheries and aquaculture issues, is the custodian of indicators for four SDG14 Targets, and co-custodian for another three.
Qu went on to analyze some of the progress made so far on these targets, citing data from FAO’s flagship 2022 report State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), which was launched earlier in the day.
Target 14.4 calls for the restoration of fish stocks so that they may produce maximum sustainable yield by 2020. The indicator for this target is the proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels.
The FAO Director-General noted that this target was not achieved, with the fraction of stocks fished at sustainable levels declining by 1.2 percent from 2017 to 2019. However, if weighted by volume, 82.5 percent of marine fisheries landings are from biologically sustainable stocks – an almost 4 percent rise since the last assessment.
This shows that effectively managed fisheries stocks are rebuilding, Qu said, adding: “In order to meet Target 14.4, effective management is the best conservation.”
On Target 14.6, which seeks to eliminate subsidies that contribute to overfishing and Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fisheries, Qu said that some progress was being made with the help of globally binding tools such as the 1995 UN Fish Stock Agreement; the 1995 Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries; and the 2009 FAO Port State Measures Agreement.
FAO continues to support Members in implementing these global and regional instruments, working together with civil society, the private sector, academia and the UN wide system, Qu said. He also congratulated the World Trade Organisation for an “unprecedented agreement reached on fisheries subsidies.”
Target 14.7 aims to increase the contribution of fisheries to GDP, particularly in Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries. Meeting Target 14.7 calls for upgrading and enhancing existing value aquatic food chains, and initial analyses indicate this target is trending positively, Qu said.
Finally, Target 14.b, is a call to provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets. This is the most crucial of all in relation to sustainable livelihoods, Qu said, adding that the target is also trending positively.
More and more national frameworks recognize and protect rights for small-scale fishers, who account for 90percent of the sector’s workforce, and produce 40 percent of the world’s catch.
“Building the resilience of small-scale fishers and supporting their inclusion in decision-making processes are key to ensuring long-term sustainable fisheries and healthy oceans,” the FAO Director-General said. This year’s International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture, offers a big opportunity to further advance Target 14.b, he added.
Achieving SDG14 needs partnerships
Qu said SDG14 – the least-funded of all the SDGs – can only be achieved through strategic and innovative partnerships, commitments and financing.
Moreover, to feed the world with aquatic foods must also involve aquaculture, or the farming of fish and aquatic animals and plants, which is not directly reflected in SDG14. Beyond food, aquaculture offers new opportunities and markets to support millions of livelihoods, including women, youth and indigenous communities, he said.
To address today’s challenges, the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31 supports the urgent transformation of global agrifood systems, including aquatic food systems, for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind, Qu noted.
To deliver on this vision, FAO promotes Blue Transformation, with 3 core objectives:
- Sustainable aquaculture intensification and expansion;
- Effective management of all fisheries;
- Upgraded value chains that ensure the social, economic and environmental viability of aquatic food systems.
Despite there remaining less than 8 years to meet SDG14 and the rest of the 2030 Agenda, Qu said these three objectives were achievable. “Let us use today’s Dialogue and this important UN Conference to boost and accelerate our actions for our oceans, people, prosperity and planet,” the FAO Director-General urged.