On the sustainability of inland fisheries: Finding a future for the forgotten
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At present, inland fisheries are not often a national or regional governance priority and as a result, inland capture fisheries are undervalued and largely overlooked. As such they are threatened in both developing and developed countries. Indeed, due to lack of reliable data, inland fisheries have never been part of any high profile global fisheries assessment and are notably absent from the Sustainable Development Goals. The general public and policy makers are largely ignorant of the plight of freshwater ecosystems and the fish they support, as well as the ecosystem services generated by inland fisheries. This ignorance is particularly salient given that the current emphasis on the food-water-energy nexus often fails to include the important role that inland fish and fisheries play in food security and supporting livelihoods in low-income food deficit countries. Developing countries in Africa and Asia produce about 11 million tonnes of inland fish annually, 90 % of the global total. The role of inland fisheries goes beyond just kilocalories; fish provide important micronutrients and essentially fatty acids. In some regions, inland recreational fisheries are important, generating much wealth and supporting livelihoods. The following three key recommendations are necessary for action if inland fisheries are to become a part of the food-water-energy discussion: invest in improved valuation and assessment methods, build better methods to effectively govern inland fisheries (requires capacity building and incentives), and develop approaches to managing waters across sectors and scales. Moreover, if inland fisheries are recognized as important to food security, livelihoods, and human well-being, they can be more easily incorporated in regional, national, and global policies and agreements on water issues. Through these approaches, inland fisheries can be better evaluated and be more fully recognized in broader water resource and aquatic ecosystem planning and decision-making frameworks, enhancing their value and sustainability for the future.
KeywordsInland fisheries Sustainability Governance Integrated water resources management Food-water-energy nexus
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