In a groundbreaking statement issued at the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, WWF has joined private and public sector leaders in calling for a new global seafood traceability system to give consumers, businesses, and governments full access to information about marine fishing practices. The statement is the first multi-stakeholder call for such a system, and could herald an important role for the World Economic Forum in support of sustainable fisheries.
The statement, issued by the Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Oceans, recognizes the urgent need for tracing fish products from “bait to plate” as a means for linking markets to sustainable fishing practices, and for ending the illegal fishing that continues to be a major driver of fisheries depletion.
The world is facing an unprecedented crisis of overfishing, with nearly 87 per cent of the world’s commercial fisheries now fished to or over maximum levels, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
Meanwhile, experts estimate that 20 per cent of worldwide fish catches come from illegal fishing practices. Solutions depend heavily on giving market actors and regulators reliable information to know which fish products are legal and sustainable and which are not. But currently, access to this information and the mechanisms needed to trace wild caught fish to their origins are the exception rather than the rule.
“Making commercial fishing sustainable is a critical global challenge,” says Jim Leape, Director General, WWF. “The joint statement released in Davos points the way to one important part of the solution.”
Creating a reliable system for seafood traceability will require harmonizing both regulatory and commercial practices across national boundaries and across sub-sectors of the seafood industry, ranging from small scale producers in developing countries to the major retail chains and brand owners in the European Union, US, and Japan.
“The stakes are high for the global seafood industry, as well as for the hundreds of millions of people around the world who depend on fish for protein and on fishing for their livelihoods,” adds Jim Leape.
The WEF Global Agenda Council on Oceans brings together an interdisciplinary group of experts and leaders in the fields of oceans conservation, policy and commerce from around the world. WWF, which is represented on the Council, helped craft the Davos joint statement, and has launched a Transparent Seas Project focused on seafood traceability and the fight against illegal fishing.