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Fish stocks under threat

Kalesi Mele
Saturday, December 03, 2016

EXPLOITATION of fish and marine resources could see a shortage of fish stocks, down to 3kg per person per year by 2050, says World Wildlife Fund Pacific conservation director Sally Bailey.

A recent report released by WWF, titled Reviving Melanesia's Ocean Economy, projects that Melanesian nations will need 60 per cent more fish in 2030 if the current trends in fish exploitation continue.

The report reveals the ocean as one of Melanesia's greatest resources, amassing a total ocean asset base of at least $F1144 billion.

The annual goods and services (gross marine product) that flow from the ocean in Melanesia is valued conservatively at $F11.28 billion, which is the broad equivalent of the combined gross domestic product of Fiji and the Solomon Islands.

Ms Bailey said Fiji's ocean economy relied heavily on the health of a set of core natural assets such as coral reefs, seagrass bed and mangroves which were eroding.

She said the great sea reef commonly known as Cakaulevu, which was the third longest reef system in the southern hemisphere, was under threat from human activities.

"Current levels of intensive agriculture and deforestation have already resulted in the export of sediments, nutrients and agrichemicals into near-shore environments, which has significantly reduced water quality and resulted in the declining health of mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs," she said.

"This will be made worse with sea level rise, coral bleaching events, and ocean acidification."

She adds that sea level rise was a major threat and there were potentially new threats from deep seabed mining as a large area adjacent to the great sea reef are subject to exploration licences.

"Coastal areas in Melanesia are experiencing relatively higher rates of sea level rise, which are three to four times the global average.

"This is very apparent in Fiji where the Government has already announced 64 villages will be relocated to high grounds in the next few years due to climate change."

She says there needs to be an understanding on the value of ocean natural assets such as reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves which rake in a value of $F848 billion for Melanesian nations.

These assets also provide less direct but increasingly important benefits such as carbon absorption and coastal protection.

In finding ways to address the issue Ms Bailey said more efforts needed to be directed on creating effective policies, legislation, management frameworks and financing mechanisms to protect ocean resources.

"Ensure that Fiji fish stocks do not decline over time (and are recovered and rebuilt where possible) and that the wider ecosystem impacts are deemed acceptable.

"Recent estimations calculate that Fiji currently enjoys a surplus of fish production against consumption, but current trends in fish stocks and human population growth estimates a shortfall of 3kg per person per year by 2050."

She said the development of a coherent national fisheries policy today would help prevent a future deficiency in food security while ensuring Fiji's fishery resources continued to contribute to sustainable development and growth.

"Manage fish stocks at levels that are sustainable using ecosystem-based adaptation approaches to build resilience to climate change," she said.

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