Tomorrow's Fisheries: What is the Future for Fishing?
Longtime residents of Akumal, and those who first visited the area decades ago, recall a time when conch, lobster and grouper were abundant. As populations of these species have declined, so has an important source of employment, income, nutrition and enjoyment. Unsustainable fishing practices are a worldwide problem, with one quarter of existing fisheries being over-exploited.
While fish stocks globally are in trouble, there is some good news. We have actually seen a reversal in the decline of some fisheries; stocks can be replenished if sound management practices are implemented. Punta Allen lobster cooperatives are a wonderful example of how to protect valuable marine resources and benefit the entire community.
By considering the natural cycles of populations and enforcing seasonal capture limits, focusing on selective techniques that reduce by-catch and yield high-quality product, and restricting access while implementing rights-based fishery management systems, stocks can be harvested in a way that protects their long-term survival.
While caring, informed, and proactive fishing communities and consumers are essential to sustainable management, fisheries also depend on the health and quality of the surrounding ecosystems and waters. Marine protected areas, where fishing is prohibited, also serve as nurseries that continuously replenish stocks in nearby fisheries. Ecological land use planning, sustainable coastal development practices and sound waste management practices all contribute to an integral management of the sea’s natural resources.
During October we celebrate World Food Day, World Habitat Day and World Animal Week, a good opportunity to consider how a stable food supply is intimately linked to healthy ecosystems.