Planet Earth is blue. That’s why for some, calling her Earth is nonsense; she should be called Ocean. It is here that most life forms are found and it here also that the key to humanity’s survival is hidden. The world’s population is approximately 7.4 billion. It is estimated to reach 10.9 billion by the middle of the century. With such huge number of people inhabiting the globe, it is worth asking, will there be enough food for everyone? The conservation and sustainability of the ocean´s resources is fundamental to answering this question.
Patricia Majluf, Peruvian Vice President of Oceana, the world’s largest organization dedicated to caring for our oceans, argues that fishing is an excellent option for feeding humanity because it has minimal environmental impact and captures a renewable and abundant resource. “Today the fishing industry has the capacity to feed a billion people daily, forever. If we manage it better, many more could be fed”, she says.
Peru has an important role to play given that, as Majluf points out, “the 30 countries that bring in the highest fish volumes control 90% of the world´s fisheries. Five of them capture nearly 50% of production...Few countries catch in one year what we catch in a single day in Peru. During the best seasons, the Peruvian fleet has been able to land 170 tons per day. Ninety percent of countries do not land 100 tons in an entire year. She adds, “One of the reasons Oceana is in Peru is to reform fishing management so that production returns to the levels of a few years ago”.
However, conservation of this great nutrition source is at risk, because of threats hanging over marine ecosystems. These threats are related to complex sets of problems, such as overfishing, illegal fishing, and pollution. “There is a lack of awareness on the part of most of the world’s population about the problems facing the sea. That’s why the United Nations Ocean Conference to be held in New York is so important; for the first time the issue is being raised to a level that will give it global prominence”, says Majluf.
It is expected that there will be a notable decline in marine resources by 2050 if these problems are not solved. “Unfortunately, many countries with large fishing industries exhaust their reserves and go fishing elsewhere. For example, the entire coast of Africa has been invaded by fleets such as the Russian, Korean, and Spanish. Bad agreements are made, leaving the population malnourished and vulnerable”.
The expert comments that governments need to implement sustainable resource management and have legislation aimed at caring for marine life. There has been important progress in Peruvian legislation. But there is still a long way to go. Implementation of the Humboldt Plan is a step forward. It is promoted by UNDP. The plan enables the Peruvian and Chilean governments to exploit the Pacific’s resources in a coordinated and sustainable way. “If we have the option of IMARPE (the Peruvian Marine Institute) and IFOP (the Chilean Fisheries Development Institute) working in a harmonized way, undertaking simultaneous evaluations, and coordinating each country’s catch, it will represent a big opportunity”.
It is only by caring for and responsibly exploiting the resources of Planet Earth, Ocean, or whatever we might wish that she be called, that we will allow her to continue providing sustenance for all of humanity.