The fishing sector, key to moving towards a blue economy

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Today is World Fisheries DayThis date, proclaimed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is celebrated every November 21 with the aim of highlighting the value of the fishing sector in its contribution to the protection and conservation of marine ecosystems, as well as in the promotion of the blue economy, through its activity linked to the sea.

In this sense, this group is part of one of the fundamental pillars of the blue economy, a sector that encompasses all activities related to the sea and that has the ocean as the main engine of growth and innovation to achieve sustainable economic development.

Thus, according to data from the report of 2022 The state of world fisheries and aquaculture published by FAO, fisheries and aquaculture is the livelihood of some 600 million people, generating employment for 58.5 million people in the primary sector alone during 2020.

In global terms, FAO estimates that world aquatic animal production is estimated at 178 million tons, generating a total value of US$406 billion. In addition, the production trend is expected to continue to increase by 13%, reaching 202 million tons in 2030.

The same document also includes the importance of fishing as a source of food. In 2019, globally, aquatic foods contributed 17 % of animal protein and 7 % of total protein. In addition, they contributed at least 20% of the average per capita intake of animal protein for 3.3 billion people. Of the total production, 157 million tons were used for human consumption.

In line with all of the above, the fishing sector contributes to the generation of employment and wealth, economic growth and food supply. However, it is necessary to ensure the sustainability of fishing activities, avoiding practices such as overfishing, pollution or illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which have an impact on habitat degradation and threaten the conservation of marine ecosystems.

In this regard, Spain has a Sustainable Fisheries and Fisheries Research Law, approved last March 2023. This regulation on fisheries management includes improvements such as the inclusion of the ecosystem approach and climate change mitigation and adaptation as general principles. It also includes the minimization of accidental catches of protected and endangered species, as well as management plans that serve as a tool for recognizing the singularities of the different fisheries under the same management and biodiversity conservation objectives.

Also at the national level, another recently published resource deals more specifically with the location and management of lost or abandoned fishing gear (APPA). It is estimated that about 640,000 tons of fishing gear or its remains are lost or abandoned each year in the world’s seas and oceans.

In this context, the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) has developed a battery of tools to address this global problem. These resources are the result of a participatory process with more than 70 organizations and stakeholders through the INTEMARES-Lost Arts initiative, carried out by the Directorate General for the Coast and Sea of the MITECO, within the framework of the LIFE INTEMARES project, coordinated by the Biodiversity Foundation.

We also continue to work towards achieving a sustainable ocean and healthy marine ecosystems by strengthening the collaboration with the fishing and aquaculture sector. Thus, with the inclusion of the Fundación Biodiversidad in the Operational Program of the European Maritime Fund for Fisheries and Aquaculture (FEMPA), continuity will be given to the Pleamar Program. To this end, calls for grants will be published throughout this new operational period and support will continue to be given to projects with a transformative approach that can be developed over several years.

The development of this line of work aims to redouble the objective of supporting the fishing and aquaculture sector in its commitment to increasingly sustainable activities, the reduction of marine pollution and the promotion of the ecological transition to improve knowledge and the protection, conservation and restoration of the marine environment.

This continuity also contemplates the reinforcement of aspects linked to the protection and improvement of knowledge of the marine environment through research, the strengthening of governance, the reduction of the impact of fishing and the improvement of environmental knowledge of aquaculture. To this end, the focus will be placed on the aspects of collaboration between scientific, sectorial and environmental agents, and various improvements in the administrative and economic management of the projects will be incorporated to simplify internal management aspects.