The management of fishing

This column was published in the International Aquafeed magazine in January 2020.

The fishmeal industry is an extremely complex sector and one of the things I enjoy in working for IFFO is gaining an in-depth understanding of the whole value chain in fishmeal and fish oil production and its complexities across the globe. Fishmeal businesses link their production through from capture fisheries into the production of high value feed ingredients, subsequently into feed and aquaculture systems and products, being a central foundation to the availability of farmed aquatic protein around the world. These materials are the building blocks of farmed fish. Several media reports in recent months illustrate that the IFFO staff’s general enthusiasm for the fishmeal industry is not always shared, nor is our belief in the importance of an evidence-based and factual approach as a crucial way of communicating the industry’s activities. A reading of some of the reports of fishmeal production by non-specialists would, unfortunately, provide that reader with a picture of the situation that is quite a departure from reality. As one example of this, recent items on fishmeal, whether they be on television, social media or the internet seem to portray the fishing industry generally as a “free for all” and there is regular reference – incorrectly – to levels of overfishing around the world. The implication is that fisheries are left unmanaged, and in a perpetual state of decline.

Sadly, there is little reference to fishery management, regulation and enforcement and the way that industry generally works closely with government and regulators in managing stocks. Nowhere is the situation of good management better presented than in Peru, the location of a recent trip by IFFO staff to visit members and stakeholders in-country. These are important visits for a trade association like IFFO because it provides an opportunity to engage directly with our members and listen to the issues that are at the heart of the fishmeal production companies.

The Peruvian industry, based largely on the Peruvian anchoveta (Engraulis ringens) is a good example of a fishing industry working closely with regulators, helping with data supply and stock monitoring. Clearly it is in the industry’s own interests to work to manage the stock in order that there is available raw material in future years. Through discussions there came an apparently underrecognised point in relation to fish stocks – even where there is an effective setting of a quota for harvestable biomass in a fishery, there is still a lot of work to do to make sure that these fish are actually utilised. Fishing is an activity that requires a great deal of effort and knowledge, and, actually, not all the quota is always harvested. It is surprising in a way that this is not reported more often, but it is a reflection of just how difficult it is to harvest fish from the global oceans. Even with all the technology we have available in the 21st century fishing remains a dangerous and energy intense activity.

Dr Neil Auchterlonie
IFFO Technical Director

Date: 
Thursday, January 23, 2020