“A Third of Fish Stocks are Overfished…” -FAO warns

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A fishermen holds a recent catch at the port near Elmina Castle, Ghana, where fish consumption accounts for more than half of the population's intake of animal protein

By Amin Kef Sesay

More than a third of the fish stocks around the world are being overfished and the problem is particularly acute in developing countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a report on Monday.

The FAO said in a biennial report that tackling the issue would require several measures including stronger political will and improved monitoring, as fish stocks in areas with less-developed management were in poor shape.

“While developed countries are improving the way they manage their fisheries, developing countries face a worsening situation,” the FAO said.

In 2017, 34.2 percent of the fish stocks from the world’s marine fisheries were classified as overfished, a “continuous increasing trend” since 1974, when that figure stood at just 10 percent.

Overfishing depletes stocks at a rate that the species cannot replenish and so leads to lower fish populations and reduced future production.

The FAO said less intense management was common in many developing nations, and was fuelled partly by limited management and governance capacities.

“We notice that sustainability is particularly difficult in places where hunger, poverty and conflict exist, but there is no alternative to sustainable solutions,” the agency said.

Worldwide per capita fish consumption set a new record of 20.5kg per year in 2018, and has risen by an average rate of 3.1 percent since 1961, outpacing consumption of all other animal proteins.

Fish consumption accounts for a sixth of the global population’s intake of animal proteins, and more than half in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka.

The FAO projected global per capita consumption would climb to 21.5kg by 2030, a slowdown in the average annual growth rate to 0.4 percent, with a decline expected in Africa.

“The main reason for this decline is the growth of Africa’s population outpacing the growth in supply. Increasing domestic production and higher fish imports will not be sufficient to meet the region’s growing demand,” the FAO said.

The report is based on information gathered before the COVID-19 outbreak, which has led to a decline in global fishing activity as a result of restrictions and labour shortages due to the health emergency, the FAO said.

Sustaining Inclusive Peace is on the Frontlines of Climate Change

As countries reel from the devastating social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, gender inequality is shaping the experience of crisis, as well as prospects for resilience and recovery.

A new report – Gender, Climate & Security: Sustaining Inclusive Peace on the Frontlines of Climate Change – by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Women, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UNDPPA) reveals the close links between gender, climate, and security, and shows that women on the frontlines of climate action are playing a vital role in conflict prevention and sustainable, inclusive peace.

Communities affected by conflict and climate change face a double crisis. The pandemic further compounds the impacts of climate change on food security, livelihoods, social cohesion, and security. This can undermine development gains, escalate violence and also disrupt fragile peace processes.

Women and girls are facing disproportionate economic burdens due to different types of marginalization; gendered expectations can lead men and women to resort to violence when traditional livelihoods fail; and important socio-economic shifts can result from changes to patterns of migration.

“Unequal access to land tenure, financial resources, and decision-making power can create economic stress for entire households in times of crisis, leaving women disproportionately exposed to climate-related security risk,” said UNEP’s Executive Director, Inger Andersen. “The climate crisis stretches well beyond just climate, and tackling it effectively requires responses that address the links between gender, climate and security – we must ensure no one is left behind.”

Research supporting the report shows that in Chad, gender-based violence and structural inequality limit the capacity of communities to adapt to climate shocks. In Sudan, the growing scarcity of fertile land caused by extended droughts and rainfall fluctuation is marked by increases in local conflict between farmers and nomadic groups.

Many people – mostly men – have migrated away from local villages in search of alternative livelihoods in large agricultural schemes or in nearby mines, leaving women with greater economic burdens. Other examples highlight climate-related security risks for women in urban areas, especially within informal settlements. Research from Pakistan and Sierra Leone suggest that water shortages, heat waves, and extreme weather events can create new risks of gender-based violence and deepen pervasive inequalities.

The report makes clear the urgent need for gender-responsive action to tackle these linked crises. Interventions around natural resources, the environment and climate change, for example, provide significant opportunities for women’s political and economic leadership, and strengthen their contributions to peace. Sustainable natural resource programming also offers opportunities to mitigate sexual and gender-based violence in conflict. Recognizing that peace and security, human rights, and development are interdependent is vital to forge a better future, the report argues.

“Gender inequality, climate vulnerability, and state fragility are strongly interlinked –we know, for example, that countries with higher values in one of these areas tend to score higher in the other two”, said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner. “At the same time, aid targeting initiatives that empower women and promote gender equality remains very low. The concrete examples of these types of initiatives in action showcased in this report can help spur further research and inspire more opportunities to reinforce the roles of women in peacebuilding, which is fundamental to help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

“Strengthening the role of women in the management of natural resources also creates opportunities for them to act as peacebuilders and manage conflicts in non-violent manners,” adds Oscar Fernández-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support.

Gender considerations should also be fully reflected in emerging policy and programming on climate-related security risks –not only to strengthen awareness and understanding of particular vulnerabilities, but also to highlight opportunities for leadership and inclusion of women and marginalized groups in decision-making processes.

More investment for gender equality and women’s empowerment is required in fragile states, including implications on human mobility, and especially in sectors related to natural resources, where it is particularly low.

“Building back better with a gender lens means ensuring our post-COVID economies tackle the fundamental inequalities in society and end violence against women,” said UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “Women are a powerful force to rebuild societies more securely, from providing food and shelter, to generating vital income and leading sustainable change.”

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