Indigenous Peoples Of The World’s Coastlines Are Losing Their Fisheries — And Their Way Of Life

2016-12-07T11:14:18+00:00 December 7, 2016|
Reef fish for sale at a market in the Solomon Islands. (Credit: Filip Milovac/Flickr)

(Click to enlarge) Reef fish for sale at a market in the Solomon Islands. (Credit: Filip Milovac/Flickr)

The world loves seafood. According to some estimates, people consumed about 102 million tons of it last year.

(From The Washington Post / by Darryl Fears)– A new study released Friday by the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program, based at the University of British Columbia, shows that indigenous people who live on the world’s coasts are definitely hooked. They consume 15 times more seafood per capita than people in other parts of the world, about 2.3 million tons, or about 2 percent of the global catch, the study said.

They don’t simply catch and eat fish and other seafood. It’s the heart of communities, the center of culture and religion, a gift from the heavens. Seafood is crucial to the cultures of coastal indigenous people in the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Arctic, among other places, and overfishing and the ocean-wide movement of fish due to climate change could wipe those resources out.

On the coast of Africa at the equator, huge commercial ships are starting to encroach on native fishing areas as ocean stocks diminish. In places such as Madagascar, the stocks of community fisheries have been nearly lost.

“These big industrial fisheries are chasing the fish. In West Africa, larger vessels are moving closer and closer to shore,” said Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor, research associate at the University of British Columbia and an author of the study published in PLOS One. “A lot of these indigenous communities, all they have are dugout canoes.”

“What you’ve seen is as people have less access to their traditional fishing ground,” Cisneros-Montemayor said, “people have turned to eating more food in the stores. People are wondering about the effects on their health. There’s an elevation in cases of diabetes.”

Coastal communities greatly rely on fishing, but no one knew exactly how much indigenous people on the coast need fish.

Policymakers around the world, who sought to understand the impacts of overfishing, encroachment on community fisheries and climate change had on coastal communities, lacked basic information. Cisneros-Montemayor said that’s why his team of researchers embarked on the study.

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