Towards responsible and sustainable fisheries

A billion people dependent on fish in the world  |  From years of  “miraculous fishing” to stock collapse  |  An unlikely return to initial state  |  Impacts
of fisheries on the marine ecosystem as a whole
  |  A worrisome reduction
in fish size
  |  Dynamics of exploitation systems  |  Towards
responsible and sustainable fisheries
  |  The Centre de Recherche
Halieutique Méditerranéenne et Tropicale

Towards responsible and sustainable fisheries

It is urgent to implement management measures which take into account the impacts of fisheries on the functioning of ecosystems. Current fisheries practices, too often based on a short-term view of economic profitability, are signing away not only the future of marine populations and ecosystems but the fisheries sector in the middle term. 
 With the objective of encouraging a  precautionary approach in a true effort to construct the fisheries industry of tomorrow, the FAO ( Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) has laid down the bases of an “Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management”. By establishing a code of conduct for responsible fisheries in 1995, a new dimension has appeared with the principle of precaution applied to fisheries,  resulting in a concerted effort to reconcile conservation and exploitation. This does not mean rejecting fishery activity as such but rather making fishers and decision-making bodies aware of their responsibilities in the exploitation of renewable marine resources. Exploitation activities are no longer considered independently of their very context, the ecosystem. The Reykjavik Declaration on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem in 2001, adopted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002, asks States to establish policy on the exploitation of marine resources.
An international framework and agenda have been fixed for  the goals of conservation and exploitation.
For scientists, one of the stakes is to better quantify the effects of fisheries on ecosystems. Many gaps persist still in this domain, for only recently has research turned to the functioning of ecosystems as a whole.
One possible line of research is the elaboration and proposal of ecosystem indicators with the goal of establishing a veritable bill of health of marine ecosystems so as to better communicate scientific knowledge to the decision-making spheres of fisheries management. The use of these indicators was discussed at an international symposium held at UNESCO in Paris, assembling 250 researchers from 53 countries. This conference took stock of existing knowledge on the subject and laid down future research bases to be undertaken in order to refine the health diagnosis of marine ecosystems. It remains to be seen whether governments will integrate the responsibility of fisheries within legislation, as recommended by the FAO, at this point in time where responsible and precautionary fisheries management is a minimum requirement for ensuring viability of resources and their exploitation. If maritime fisheries do not wish to become a recreational activity due to depleted resources and undergo the fate of hunting, the number of vessels and their activity must be limited, the numerous depleted stocks must be replenished, and conservation and exploitation reconciled by rendering fisheries more respectful of their environment.

Pêche au thon en Atlantique
Baie d'Along, Viêt-nam
Le port industriel de Valparaiso au Chili