“Check your fish!”: sustainable fishing seen by consumers

The boundaries of ecological fishing are wider than the oceans, and also concern end customers: an initiative for all by ASC and MSC

Sustainable fishing: even wider than the oceans
The boundaries of sustainable fishing are even wider than the oceans, and they also concern consumers: “Control your fish” and do your part (Photo: Envato)

The fisheries sector is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set in the 2030 Agenda: with over 59 million people employed worldwide, fishing is a major maritime industry.

According to the latest Report of United Nations, by 2030 the oceans' contribution to the global economy will reach $3 trillion: a fishery planet it is necessary for the protection of marine ecosystems and also for the Food safety of millions of people around the world.

According to the former UN youth delegate Rebecca Freitag, the sustainability objectives are “a gift to the world", a concrete roadmap to follow "towards a future worth living". But to be able to make it sustainable a massive sector like fishing, in which 90 percent of the operators are small, everyone's contribution is needed: governments, businesses and consumers.

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Global fishing and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Within the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2015, fishing is mainly dealt with inObjective 14 (Life Underwater), but it also has profound implications with regard to other SDGs, starting from Goals 1 and 2, those which aim to defeat poverty and hunger in the world.

As stated in a report from the UN Ocean Conference published in 2022, “the fishing industry is estimated to involve 59,1 million people” all over the world, and which uses a fleet of more than that globally 4 and a half million boats.

Talking about fishery planetTherefore, it is not just the protection of the oceans that is at stake: beyond 3 billions of people they rely onoceano in terms of livelihood, food, work.

Sustainable fishing therefore goes well beyond Goal 14, also involving very closely in objectives 8 (Decent work and economic growth), 10 (Reduce inequalities) and 12 (Responsible production and consumption).

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Sustainable fishing: Objective 14 towards a disappointing outcome…

Objective 14, within the Sustainable Development Goals, is the one that most closely concerns fishing. It is dedicated to "Life Under Water", and has as its ultimate goal that of "conserve and sustainably use the oceans, the seas and marine resources for sustainable development".

Like the other SDGs, Goal 14 also has a set of specific goals to be achieved by 2030, ranging from the reduction of marine pollution (14.1) toincrease in scientific knowledge on the subject (14.a).

Among the 10 Target set by the United Nations for "Life Under Water", those that directly concern sustainable fishing seem destined to be disregarded.

  • Target 14.4 – Sustainable fishing: by 2022, it is already a Target “partially missed”. Fish stocks continue to decline and only 34,2 percent are caught at biological levels considered acceptable;
  • 14.6 target – Stop subsidies that contribute to overfishing: Although the elimination of harmful fisheries subsidies is under negotiation at the WTO as early as 2021, governments still invest millions of dollars every year in subsidies that make it profitable a type of fishing harmful to thetechnology and for consumers;
  • Target 14.b - Support for small fishermen: Small businesses provide more than 40 percent of global fish catches, and employ around 90 percent of people working in the fishing industry. About half of them are women, and 97 percent live in developing countries.

Il 2023 it is the year that marks the halfway point of the path indicated by the Sustainability Objectives, and the medium-term evaluation it promises to be rather disappointing as far as the health of the seas.

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According to Rebecca Freitag, we should see the 17 Sustainability Goals as a gift, also in the fishing sector (Photo: Envato)

Sustainable Development Goals, a concrete roadmap

How do you explain Rebecca Freitag, professor of interdisciplinary sustainability at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, to date only 15 percent of the global goals are on track towards achieving the Targets.

Yet, Freitag recalls, “we should see the 17 Sustainable Development Goals as a gift to the world", because they are capable of "divide our complex challenges into 17 objectives that help us with their 169 sub-objectives and over 200 indicators that provide a very concrete roadmap towards a future worth living".

The “designer of sustainability” German, who was the German youth delegate to the United Nations for Sustainable Development between 2017 and 2019, argues that we must “think and act systemically, recognizing synergies between objectives and avoiding compromises".

The Sustainability Objectives must be pursued taking into account the fact that they are inseparable from each other, and the Fishing target planet it is very explanatory in this sense. If you look at the global fishing industry, the link between fisheries sustainability and the other SDGs is clear: “Fair pay fights poverty (Goal 1) and sustainably caught fish contributes to healthy diets (Goal 3) and food security (Goal 2)”, argues Freitag.

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Thanks to the “Control your fish!” initiative, consumers can choose consciously and contribute to sustainable fishing (Photo: Envato)

“Check your fish!”: sustainable fishing and the role of the consumer

The young Berlin teacher takes as an example two non-profit associations who have been involved in sustainable fishing since well before the UN decided to set the Sustainable Development Goals in black and white.

"Long before the SDGs existed", explains Freitag, “the two environmental organizations ASC, Aquaculture Stewardship Council, e MSC, Marine Stewardship Council, they aimed to end overfishing and negative impacts on the oceans through rigorous sustainability requirements".

The activities of ASC and MSC have contributed to the objectives related to sea and the fight against climate change, but "at the same time, their presence promoted a sustainable supply chain (Objective 12), he created fair jobs (Objective 8) and opened new markets for the fishing sector in the southern hemisphere (Objective 10)”, says Rebecca Freitag.

The two organizations environmentalists they are also a concrete example of how fundamental the contribution of everyone, i.e. governments, companies and consumers, is for a fishery planet.

Means the initiative “Check your fish!”, ASC and MSC provide important information on certified fish supply chain, allowing consumers to choose which fish to buy also based on the principle of sustainability. Which, in terms of fishing, is divided into the “3Ps”, that is “People, Planet, Profit".

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