Tuna fishing near the Andalusian village of Zahara de los Atunes, near Cape Trafalgar


© Jean Gaumy / Magnum Photos


A thought flashes in the minds of FAO staff when a meeting on overfishing is scheduled for the end of the month in the company calendar. "What, again?".
Yes, again. According to their data, in 2016 alone, the fleet of 4.6 million fishing boats and circa 60 million fishing industry workers around the world caught 171 million tons of fish, destined mostly for food consumption. That is almost double the figures of the '90s, partly thanks to the setting up of new captive rearing facilities, a practice known as aquaculture. In recent decades, provisions to impose sustainable exploitation of food resources have yielded results. Wild fishing is decreasing. Many damaging practices have been outlawed or limited and it is predicted that the growing number of aquaculture facilities will in the near future help satisfy the increasing demand for consumption. And consumption is the real problem here.
Since the '60s, annual fish consumption has increased from 6 to 20 kilograms per capita and the global population has increased from 3 to 7 billion people, a trend destined to grow. Even if the situation seems manageable right now, today already a third of farming facilities adopt non-sustainable fishing practices to achieve their required export quotas. Acting on the fishing industry can improve the conditions of exploitation of resources, block fishing in defined areas and allow many fish populations to be replenished after the effects of past fishing activity. It cannot, however, eliminate the growing demand for fish. That task falls on our shoulders. Reducing demand is the first step towards creating a sustainable strategy that satisfies everyone involved. Starting with the students of the future, living away from home, who will no longer have to survive on the staple dish of pasta with tuna as we do today.

Giacomo Federico Rubini