Sustainable and seasonal fishing, water at the center of world development

Sustainable and seasonal fishing, water at the center of world development

March 10, 2021

Sustainable and seasonal fishing, water at the center of world development

Environmental, social and economic sustainability is a cornerstone of sustainable development and cannot be separated from all-encompassing policies that also include fishing and aquaculture

When we talk about the sustainability and seasonality of food, we generally think of fruit and vegetables or products from livestock farms, but these rarely include fish. Yet fish, and more generally fish products, play a central role in the diets of various countries - including those bordering the Mediterranean such as Italy - and the activities involved in making these products can have a significant impact, particularly on the environmental and socio-economic balances of nations

Unsurprisingly, one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nationsnumber 14 – is specifically dedicated to Life Below Water” and aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.  World Water Day, celebrated on March 22 every year, is an important opportunity to draw the attention of consumers and professionals back to the fundamental theme of the value and management of this resource and the life it hosts.


The great value of fish

“Over 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihood” point out UN experts, adding that: “Globally, the estimated annual market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is $3 trillion, or around 5% of global gross domestic product (GDP). Furthermore, marine fishing industries employ, directly or indirectly, more than 200 million people.” 

While these data demonstrate the economic importance of fishing and aquaculture activities, they don’t provide a complete picture of the global impact of fishing-related activities. 

As far as the environment is concerned, it is important to remember that the oceans absorb about one third of the carbon dioxide produced by man, helping to limit the damage related to climate change, and are the main protein reserve for over 3 billion people around the world.  Despite this, current human activity negatively affects at least 40% of the oceans: pollution, depletion of fish stocks and the loss of natural habitats along the coasts are just some of the undesirable effects of the current way of managing water. 


Developing sustainable and seasonal fishing 

Sustainability and seasonality are the two keywords for all the fishing and aquaculture activities of the future. A future that is actually already here to a certain extent, as evidenced by the commitment of various national and international associations on the subject. 

The management of fisheries in Europe, for example, is governed by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) a set of rules that aim to “ensure that fisheries and aquaculture are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable and that they represent a source of healthy food for EU citizens. The aim is to promote a dynamic fishing industry and guarantee fishing communities an adequate standard of living.”

In order to achieve this objective, an impressive 6.4 billion euros were allocated between 2014 and 2020 through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. These funds are almost totally (89%) managed by member states and are used to reduce the impact of fishing on the marine environment, create more market tools for professionals and consumers, support the joint management of protected areas, and provide specific support for small-scale fishermen. 

Projects and ideas for every taste

Doing nothing is not an option” says Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the environment, maritime affairs and fisheries in the Juncker Commission, referring to the problem of overfishing in the Mediterranean that is putting the biodiversity of this sea is at risk. 

The good news is that today there are projects at all levels, aimed at all the actors involved in creating sustainable fishing: from investors to fishermen, not forgetting individual citizens. 

Overfishing is being tackled, for example, by the MINOUW (Minimizing Unwanted Catches in European Fsheries) project, a collaboration between various maritime scientific institutes and organizations from all over Europe to “encourage the adoption of fishing technologies and practices that reduce unwanted catches and contribute to the potential elimination of discards in European fisheries” which, as WWF experts point out, can affect up to 70% of the catch: mostly fish of little or no commercial value or fish too small to be caught. 

The Fish Forward project, also launched by the WWF and co-funded by the European Union, aims instead to promote the responsible consumption of fish and seafood, also giving practical advice about “which fish to catch”. 

Taste the Ocean”, recently launched by the European Commission on social media and involving the leading European chefs, is another campaign aimed at citizens. Through testimonies and recipes, chefs promote the consumption of fish and shellfish produced in a sustainable way, emphasizing the importance of local and seasonal consumption. “Working alongside some of Europe’s leading chefs, we want to educate consumers on the importance of individual fish product choices for the health of the sea,” explained Virginijus Sinkevičius, current European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. 

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