(5th in a series)

22 scientists from around the world—including Silliman University’s Hilconida Calumpong, Ph.D.—commissioned by the UN General Assembly to form the Ad Hoc Working Group  on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects, submitted the First World Oceans Report, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2015. Here are some of the excerpts. 

By-catch (non-target fish, marine mammals, reptiles and seabirds)
Overfished stocks do not take into account the broader effects of fishing on marine ecosystems and their productivity. In the past, large numbers of dolphins drowned in fishing nets. Thanks to international efforts, fishing methods have changed and the by-catch has been reduced significantly.  Commercial fisheries are the most serious pressure at sea that the world’s seabirds face. Each year, incidental by-catch in longline fisheries is estimated to kill 160,000 albatrosses and petrels. For marine reptiles, fishery by-catch is the highest threat across marine turtle subpopulations, followed by harvesting (for human consumption) and coastal development.

Mitigation of those causes of mortality can be effective, which may include use of acoustic deterrents, gear modifications, time or area closures and gear switching (for example, from gillnets to hooks and lines). The global moratorium on large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing called for by the General Assembly in 1991 was a major step in limiting the by-catch of several marine mammal and seabird species that were especially vulnerable to entanglement. 

Impacts of disturbance from noise
Anthropogenic noise in the ocean increased in the last half of the past century. Commercial shipping is the main source, and the noise that it produces is often in frequency bands used by many marine mammals for communication. Many other marine biotas have also been shown to be affected by anthropogenic noise. Other significant sources of noise are seismic exploration for the offshore hydrocarbon industry and sonar.  The impact of noise can be both to disrupt communication among animals and to displace them from their preferred breeding, nursery or feeding grounds, with consequent potential effects on their breeding success and survival.

Food security and food safety
Fisheries and aquaculture are a major employer and source of livelihoods in coastal States. Small-scale fisheries, particularly those that provide subsistence in many poor communities, are often particularly important. Many such coastal fisheries are under threat because of overexploitation, conflict with larger fishing operations and a loss of productivity in coastal ecosystems caused by a variety of other impacts. Those include habitat loss, pollution and climate change, as well as the loss of access to space as coastal economies and uses of the sea diversify. 

Capture fisheries
Globally, capture fisheries are near the ocean’s productive capacity, with catches on the order of 80 million metric tons. Only a few means to increase yield are available. Addressing sustainability concerns more effectively (including ending overfishing, eliminating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, rebuilding  depleted resources and reducing the broader ecosystem impacts of fisheries and the adverse impacts of pollution) is an important aspect of improving fishery yields and, therefore, food security.

Aquaculture
Aquaculture production, including seaweed culture, is increasing more rapidly than any other source of food production in the world. Such growth is expected to continue. Aquaculture, not including the culture of seaweeds, now provides half of the fish products covered in global statistics. Aquaculture itself poses some environmental challenges, including potential pollution, competition with wild fishery resources, potential contamination of gene pools, disease problems and loss of habitat.

Social issues
In both capture fisheries and aquaculture, gender and other equity issues arise. A significant number of women are employed  in both types of activities, either directly or in related activities along the value chain. Women are particularly prominent in product processing, but often their labour is not equitably compensated and working conditions do not meet basic standards.

Food safety
Food safety is a key worldwide challenge for all food production and delivery sectors, including all parts of the seafood industry, from capture or culture to retail marketing. The risks come from contamination from pathogens (discharges of untreated sewage and animal waste) and toxins (often from algal blooms). There are international guidelines to address those risks but substantial resources are required in order to continue to build the capacity to implement and monitor safety protocols from the water to the consumer.—(Excerpted by SU Research & Environmental News Service)