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capital and operating costs coupled with the increasing demand for fish, particularly for export, led to the rapid overfishing of the Kerala stocks. Fish, at one time considered to be "the poor man's protein", rapidly increased in price and declined in availability and quality. The amount of fish consumed locally declined from 19 kilograms per person in 1971 -72 to around 9 kilograms in 1981-82. "Viewed from the perspective of the fish eating population of the state more investments for fisheries development yielded less fish for domestic consumption."5 Nevertheless, FAO's 1989 policy document World Agriculture: Toward 2000, makes it clear that FAO intends to continue promoting its policy of "modernizing" the fisheries sector.6

ective demand" (delivering food to those with the money to pay for it) with satisfying need. I f Europeans are prepared to pay large amounts for cat food made with fish meal from the Gulf of Guinea, poor Africans may starve yet "demand" will be satisfied. Thus FAO's boast that it has "supported the expansion (in international trade in fish and fishery products) not only by assisting in the acquisition of knowledge concerning fish stocks but also by consistent efforts .. . to promote (technology) transfer", makes nonsense of its claim that it ensures "fishery resources are utilized so as to make the greatest possible contribution to food supplies for the benefit of the poorest and weakest sections of the community".11'12

Production and Trade

Meeting Demand

Commercial fisheries production increased dramatically in the post-War period — from 18 to 75 million tonnes between 1950 and 1985 — with most of the increase taking place before 1970 and slowing down markedly thereafter.7 Parallel to this, the international trade in fish and fishery products grew to 12.5 million tonnes by 1985 — about one-third of the global commer-

FAO does not recognize

the contradiction between its declared aims of both helping poor fisherfolk and promoting international


cial catch when converted from product weight to dry weight.8 International trade, of course, largely benefits those with greater "buying power". As Toward 2000explains, the main trade flows consist of high value fish going from developing to developed countries, and low value fish going in the other direction. There is a substantial trade between developed countries, but trade in fish between developing countries is negligible.9 In recent years, developing countries have become net exporters of fishery products.10

FAO, however, does not recognize the contradiction between its declared aims of both helping poor fisherfolk and promoting international trade. As in other sectors, the organization confuses satisfying "eff­

By the end of the next decade, according to World Agriculture: Toward 2000, world population will have increased to 6100 million, and the demand for fish will have grown to at least 100 million tonnes.13

Previous FAO calculations suggest that this latter figure is the maximum commercial catch from current widely harvested species which can be sustained without critically depleting valuable species, like herring and cod.14

A serious limitation of FAO's food production statistics is that they neglect the output of the world's subsistence farmers, hunters and fishers. It is estimated that the 15-20 million "artisanal" fisherfolk worldwide catch 24 million tonnes per year.15 This figure is unlikely to rise substantially, and may fall as the modern sector makes further inroads into traditional fishing communities and as modern boats and equipment further deplete fishing stocks. It does, however, represent a large proportion of world fishing production, and, i f added to FAO's 1985 "official" production figures, indicates that the "sustainable limit" of 100 million tonnes is already being exceeded.

World Agriculture: Toward 2000admits that meeting the increases in demand it projects will not be easy. The fall in the rate of growth in fish catches worldwide in the 1970s was mostly due to what FAO terms "resource barriers";16 in other words the depletion of many fish stocks due to overfishing with the new technologies which FAO has promoted. According to Toward 2000:

"Almost all important stocks of demersal species [those found on or

fflLiJIEil ILlEIH r


COLLEGE A varied programme of residential study courses to help people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds face the

perils and opportunities of a new century. Scholars-in-Residence are chosen for the originality of their work

and their accomplishment as communicators in the fields of ecology,

science and religion, the arts, transformation and social development

Booking for 1991: March 29-April 12 Hazel Henderson LIFE BEYOND ECONOMICS a component of which is the annual

Dartington Conference

(April 3 • 7) TRANSFORMATION with Nicholas Albery, Satish Kumar, Sara Parkin and Middle East diplomat

Sir Anthony Parsons





June 23 - July 26 Victo r Papanek* DESIGN FOR THE REAL WORLD

August 25 - September 20 Theodore Roszak* EARTH, SOUL & IMAGINATION

October 13 - November 15


November 17 - December 20


^attendance at the first or second complementary parts of these courses

will he possible. Ask also for details of weekend

course programme run in conjunction with The Dartington Centre. Leaders include many of

above plus: June 14 - 16 Edward Goldsmith Write to: The Administrator, Schumacher College, The Old Postern, Dartington, Totnes, Devon

TQ9 6EA. Tel (0803) 865934.


The Ecologist, Vol. 21, No. 2, March/April 1991 Industrial Artisanal

Number of fishers employed

c.450,000 c.15,000,000

Catch for human consumption c.25mt p.a. c.20mt p.a. Capital per fishworker $10-100,000 $100-1,000 Catch for fish by-products c.19mt p.a. virtually nil Fuel consumption 10-14mtp.a. 1-2mt p.a. Catch per tonne of fuel 2-5 tonnes 10-20 tonnes Jobs per $million invested 10-100 1000-10,000

Figure 1. Comparison between industrial and artisanal fisheries. (Source: Food Matters Worldwide 8, October 1990.)

near the sea bed] are either fully exploited or overfished. Many of the stocks of more highly valued species are depleted. Reef stocks and those estuarine/littoral zones are under special threat, from illegal fishing and environmental pollution . . . Crustacean species generally are heavily exploited and many, i f not most, stocks are depleted."17

Increasing Production

The production increases which FAO believes are required are slated to come from aquaculture (about 5-10 million tonnes — double current worldwide production), "better fisheries management" (about 10 million tonnes) and "improved utilization of resources" (15-20 million tonnes).18 It is very unlikely that these increases will be achieved by the modernization policies espoused by FAO, and, i f they are, they are likely to exacerbate overfishing and will mainly benefit the rich, not the poor.

FAO's experience with aquaculture has been disastrous (see Douglas Cross, this issue), and the agency now appears to be quietly distancing itself from aquaculture development. As is admitted in Toward 2000: "The development of commercial aquaculture .. . is likely to be largely involved with luxury species or those that fetch a price sufficiently high to permit recovery of the not inconsiderable cost of inputs".19 FAO suggests measures to restrict the modern fishing methods which it promotes, for example by "legislating protected areas for use by specified fishing gears or fishermen."20 But given the experience of the problems experienced in try­

ing to impose such management policies in the North Sea, where there is a huge amount of data on fish stocks, and the wealthy surrounding countries can easily afford fishery protection vessels as well as to compensate any losses to fishermen, it is extremely unrealistic to expect the modern fishing sector to be adequately regulated in the Third World. In fact Toward 2000 itself is pessimistic about the prospects:

"Administrators as well as political leaders and donors often prefer an expansionist policy; the benefits of such a policy being perceived as immediate and tangible whereas those of good management often are long-term and hypothetical. As in the past, pressures of this kind may continue to frustrate a rational approach to fishery management."21

Given this political reality, it is hardly likely that the increased use of "fuel-efficient engines", "fish aggregating devices, spotter aircraft and satellite-generated imagery", will do anything to conserve fish stocks.22 In any case, as so many fisheries are already being overexploited, "better management", i f accomplished, would be more likely to lead to short-term reductions rather than increases in fish catches.

Using Fish Efficiently Three main priority areas are given in Toward 2000 for "improvements in utilization practices": "rescuing discards from trawling operations, reduction in post-harvest losses, and better utilization of smallpelagics species [fish which live in the top layers of the open ocean]".23 FAO estimate that between 5 and 16 million tonnes per

year are caught and discarded at sea by trawlers, of which between 20 and 70 per cent represent marketable species and sizes depending on the fishing area. From the wide range of these estimates, it is clear that the true figure is largely an unknown. It is assumed that this problem can mostly be overcome when increased demand creates a market for the currently discarded fish.24 Again the question of who generates the demand is not addressed.

FAO also estimates that 10 per cent of food fish is lost due to "lack of facilities to preserve fish or from lack of technical knowledge". "To reduce these losses will require investment in better infrastructure for landing, storage and distribution and trained staff to operate it". 2 5

The "better utilization" of small pelagic species, "has a greater potential but is perhaps more speculative".26 At present only about one-third of world catches of these species is used for direct human consumption, the balance going to fish meal and fish oil. In addition, there is a further unexploited potential of up to 10 million tonnes. Most of these species are not eaten at present due to factors such as taste and appearance; however, FAO believes that they can be made acceptable i f processed in certain ways. According to Toward 2000, the perceived health benefits of fish, and especially small pelagics which contain the highest concentrations of the oils which are supposed to be effective in preventing coronary heart diseases, "are expected to double per caput consumption in the USA".27 This is hardly likely to make more fish available to the poor in the Third World.

The most obvious method of making better use of fish would be to try to reduce the 25 million tonnes which are presently converted to fish oil or meal. World Agriculture: Toward 2000 does not state that this would be desirable although it predicts that demand for animal feed will decrease as other protein sources (such as soyabeans) become more competitive. Increased use of fish meal in aquaculture, however, it is estimated, could cancel out this reduction so that demand stays more or less constant.28 But the discussion on livestock in Toward 2000 advocates "high growth rates" for livestock production over the next decade, largely to be achieved through further intensification and a greater use of feed concentrates. There may therefore be increased agricultural demand for fish meal, even i f other protein supplements become more common.

There is also no evidence to suggest that

The Ecologist, Vol. 21, No. 2, March/April 1991