Speaking at a roundtable discussion with US Secretary of State John Kerry, FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said addressing seafood sustainability was crucial to the wider issue of food security, as fish accounts for 16.7% of global animal protein intake. FAO figures show that average per capita fish consumption has increased from 9.9 kg in the 1960s to 19.2 kg in 2012.
“We have the know-how, we have the opportunity. Now is the time to act," said da Silva.
His comments came as the FAO announced several measures to tackle illegal fishing and to promote sustainable practices, including a new ‘Blue Growth’ initiative. The programme is based on the idea that healthy ocean ecosystems are more productive and form the only basis for sustainable fishing.
Secretary Kerry said: "We need to do a better job of protecting our ocean’s fish stocks, which play a critical role in economic security for millions of family and in food security for millions more."
In addition to ensuring food security, the FAO estimates that 10% of the world’s population depends on fishing for their livelihoods.
The Blue Growth programme is intended to crack down on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing – estimated to cost $20bn a year – promote restoration of coastal ecosystems, and promote responsible fish farming.
In a separate meeting last week, da Silva said that zero hunger was no longer a dream, in the wake of the FAO’s recent report that global hunger was falling, by over 100m people over the past decade.
“Food security might not always be our first concern, but it should be," he said, adding that ending hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity “should not remain a dream. It is a vision that is within our reach.”
FAO’s report The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture can be downloaded here.