Monday, 25 October 2010 11:13
THE vital importance of inland fisheries to the diet, incomes and
livelihoods of people in developing economies is brought into sharp
focus in a new report launched on Friday.
Globally rivers and lakes are providing 13 million tonnes of fish
annually with the true figure perhaps as much as 30 million tonnes due
to under reporting of catches.
These inland fisheries are generating 60 million full and part time
jobs in fishing and other activities such as processing with over half
these jobs carried out by women.
Close to 70 per cent of the total inland catch is in Asia with 25 per
cent in Africa and around four per cent in Latin America. Much is
consumed domestically underlining the critical importance to the
people and economies of the developing world.
The new report, compiled by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and
the WorldFish Center, also highlights the wide ranging importance of
inland fisheries in diet, and especially among children, above and
beyond the supply of protein.
"Even more important in many countries (than protein) is the role of
inland fisheries in supplying micronutrients, especially vitamin A,
calcium, iron and zinc," says the report Blue Harvest: Inland
Fisheries as an Ecosystem Service.
"Detailed studies in Bangladesh for example have shown that daily
consumption of small fish contributes 40 per cent of the total daily
household requirement of vitamin A and 31 per cent of calcium," adds
the study whose findings were launched at the 10th Meeting of the
Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity taking place in
As well as providing nutritional benefits, fish also play a key role
in the functioning of aquatic ecosystems. Their consumption of
plankton, plants, insects, and other fish is critical to the stability
and resilience of river and lake habitats.
Fish also serve as important links between ecosystems. The nutrients
and organic matter from fish eggs, carcasses and excretion help to
support the production of algae, insect larvae and other fish species
in rivers and lakes.
When fish populations decline, there can be serious knock-on effects
for other organisms. Widespread mortality of the cisco fish from Lake
Mendota in the USA, for example, led to changes in the plankton
composition of the lake, decreased the level of nutrients in the water
column and caused a decline in the biomass of algae.
The report warns that despite over 40 years of steady production
globally, rapid environmental changes are occurring which challenge
the viability of future fish stocks and a range of internationally-
agreed development targets including the Millennium Development Goals.
It cites low flows, changes in seasonal flooding patterns and loss of
habitat and spawning grounds linked with dams, unsustainable
agriculture and over-abstraction of water.
Other impacts are coming from urbanization and road building,
pollution including wastewater discharges and climate change.
The report highlights a combination of overfishing and environmental
degradation as key triggers for declines in catches in Lake Malawi and
Lake Malombe while catches on the Niger River have fallen as a result
of dam building and drought related reductions in river flow.
Pollution is also taking its toll. Chongqing, Nanjing, Shanghai and
other major cites in China's Yangtze River valley are adding 25
billion tonnes of wastewater to the river annually, much of which is
Along with other factors, such as dams and over-abstraction of water,
pollution is linked with a decline in Yangtze fish catches with the
Chinese sturgeon and the Chinese paddlefish classed as critically
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary and UNEP Executive Director, said:
"This fascinating report has brought to the fore the often neglected
subject of inland fisheries. While marine fisheries are under
increasing scrutiny, those based on river and lake systems rarely
engage the international community-an oversight of potentially
"Why? Because an estimated 100 million people in Africa alone get
important levels of daily protein from these inland sources alongside
essential vitamins and minerals. Meanwhile unofficial estimates put
the global inland catch at close to 30 million tonnes, comparable to
official marine catches, and employment at 60 million people-13
million more than in equivalent marine fisheries," he added.
The report urges countries to adopt an 'ecosystem approach' to
managing inland fisheries given the multiple impacts coming to bear on
their health and productivity.
Such an approach needs to address a wide range of factors from curbing
pollution and destructive fishing practises to sustaining river flows
and restoring habitats, including protecting wetlands and other
feeding and spawning grounds.
New dams should be located where they have least impact on river
ecosystems, and fish-friendly designs managed to allow fish migration
and delivery of seasonal flows. Where possible older dams need to be
altered to provide similar benefits.
Patrick Dugan, the lead author based at the WorldFish Center in
Penang, Malaysia, added: "Recent achievements in the United States and
the Vu Gia-Thu Ban River basin in Vietnam show that political will and
careful planning can provide win-win solutions. These have kept some
river corridors free from dams, while others are managed for both
environmental and hydropower objectives. We need urgently to replicate
these successes more widely and in larger rivers if we are to sustain
the world's inland fisheries."
Blue Harvest: Inland Fisheries as an Ecosystem Service (UNEP-
WorldFish Center) is available at:
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