Published: 09/28/2007 - Updated: 07/17/2016
The fishing industry, worth about 400,000 million dollars annually, will adapt to the growing demand from traders and consumers of fish caught in a sustainable manner for the environment.
During the 27th Congress of the industry of marine products, held in Dublin (Ireland) from 25th to September 27th, (25th-27th, Grimur Valdimarsson, Director of the Division of Fishing Industries of the United Nations Food and Agriculture (FAO), emphasized the need for seafood producers to pay attention to environmental issues.
"The demand for sustainable fisheries does not come only from the government or environmental groups, but the market itself," said Valdimarsson noting that the major retail chains in the sector between them Unilever, Tesco, Walmart and Asda have already committed to sell only fish that was caught or raised sustainably.
"In recent years…” he added “the industry was not sure whether or not these trends represent a passing fad. Today there are no doubts: this is a real and large and the path to be followed in the future. "
In general terms, this means that producers will have to demonstrate to retailers and consumers that the fish does not come from overfished stocks, it was bred in marine farms located where mangroves grew before or caught with nets that have the device to avoid accidental capture of turtles.
Providing these guarantees requires strict control of fishing activity tracking systems, labels and other similar mechanisms. For this, there is a number of initiatives, provided by merchants or public interest organizations. While expressing concern about the proliferation of initiatives with the same aim, Vadimarsson stressed that, overall, this is a positive trend.
It’s not easy being Green
"Meeting these new charges is technically very difficult, so the industry must now look for an appropriate and economically viable way to do that," stressed Valdimarsson in his address to the meeting in the Irish capital.
Sector of capture fisheries should benefit from the experience of other sectors which in the past 25 years have ensured food safety. At first this was the responsibility of governments, but today is held by the industry itself, within a framework of formal and subject to random checks.
"The producers have already established internal systems to provide fresh seafood, safe and better quality, which is what consumers are asking today," said Valdimarsson. "It is not necessary to create a new agency to ensure the environmental safety criteria. These criteria are sufficient to control as is done already with the safety and quality.
Developing countries with fewer resources will have problems in the process to obtain certification of their fisheries. "We have been struggling hard to meet the standards of health and safety in fish imports imposed by developed countries," said Valdimarsson.
Helping to solve this problem is an issue of particular importance to FAO, said the expert. He also said that traders who set the market trends have a responsibility to help suppliers in countries with fewer resources.
Regular fishing rights
"Under the regime of open access to fishing grounds, fishing becomes very competitive and unworkable if a fisherman is not fishing, his competitor will, leaving little incentive to conserve resources," according to Valdimarsson, who warns that the consequence is overfishing. "Therefore, -he adds- fishermen have personal interest in disclosing what they have been doing."
"This attitude must change, as the emerging trend that requires the industry to be able to say exactly where, when and how the fish was caught. Only fishermen who have the right to fish and not be forced to fish more than their competitors will feel secure enough to operate with this level of transparency," said Valdimarsson.
World Congress of the seafood sector this year was organized jointly by FAO, the Organization of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Health (WHO), the International Certification of Food Quality and Protection Authority of Irish Fisheries, in collaboration of the International Association. Fish Inspectors (IAFI) and supported by the Irish Sea Fisheries Board, Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Food Safety.
Congress is traditionally focused on aspects of safety and quality of fish, but environmental issues have gained importance in recent years.
One of the major difficulties faced by exporters is to meet different safety standards imposed by importing countries. The Dublin meeting also discussed the need for greater harmonization of rules and reciprocity agreements, as well as the proliferation of standards and certification schemes for private fisheries products.