Friday, Jul 11, 2003
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By G. Venkataramani
"Our objective is to make fish an issue for everyone, and to achieve this we recently launched a global initiative, `Fish for All", and Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Chennai, is the chairman of the global steering committee of this 10-year programme. It is an initiative of inclusion addressing a whole range of inter-linked issues related to fisheries. It is not an advocacy programme, but it will aim at raising the awareness about fish", she explained in an interview at MSSRF recently. The price of fish tends to be on the upswing and the supplies around the globe have plateaud since the 1990s. The best species of fish are gone, and the valuable species are declining. The average size of captured fish is becoming smaller by the year, and fishermen had to use smaller-sized nets to capture them. "At times like this, to arrest the downward trend and rebuild stocks, we need to look at different ways to meet the challenges," she said.
People's cooperation in managing the fisheries resources and its environment; their creative approaches to community management; and linking up all the stakeholders to the fisheries resources have been thought upon as potential thrust areas for making fish everyone's business. "In less than 50 years, the world's average per capita consumption of fish has almost doubled, while those who catch, grow, process, trade and consume fish have changed almost beyond recognition. As overall demand for an adequate supply of fish continues to increase, we are forced to face the fact that this level of demand may not be met. Trying to meet it may cause long-term, irreversible damage to the environment and limit the future options of many people. The problems are multiplying, and the time has come for an informed, inclusive, public dialogue," said Dr. Williams.
The "Fish for All" initiative will bring together policy makers, scientists and non-governmental organisations from developing and developed countries with a role in reversing the decline in living aquatic resources and finding ways to restore the livelihood, food and income of those who use and depend on fish. Over the next 10 years, the initiative aims to achieve an inclusive and informed public dialogue on issues such as fish and development, fish and nutrition, health, livelihood, environment, gender, water, river basins and coasts, trade and economic growth, according to her. It will focus particular attention on the role of women in fisheries. "One of the objectives is to influence other sectors involved in the integrated fisheries resource management. It is to break the isolation of the fisheries sector. Fisheries cannot be sustainable in isolation," she said.
"Nearly 80 to 90 million more people, most of them in developing countries, have to be fed each year. The most reliable source of protein for many is, and must continue to be, fish. Yet, millions of people who depend on fish to live are, every day, faced by the fear of food shortage. The world population will increase from 6 to 8.5 billions in the next 25 years. Meat and fish production must double in the next 25 years to meet the projected demand."
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