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Fish and the Poor 15 2 Fish and the Poor Robert Arthur a and Natasja Sheriff b Abstract Fish stocks are widely reported to be in decline in many of the world’s oceans and inland water bodies. While this poses significant environmental problems, a major concern is the impact of these declines on millions of people who depend on fish as a source of both food and livelihood. Efforts to manage fish stocks for sustainable production have, in the past, focused on maintaining optimal productivity by managing fishing effort and catch limitations. More recently, acknowledging the intrinsic role of humans within the fisheries system has led to a more inclusive approach to integrate social, economic, and biological objectives within fisheries management. Today, the particular importance of fish and fisheries to the world’s poor suggests a need to take a pro-poor approach to fisheries management to ensure that benefits from remaining fish stocks continue to contribute to food security and livelihoods of the poor. To effectively improve fisheries management for the benefit of the poor, this paper argues that management approaches must address the inherent complexity and heterogeneity found in fisheries, and the differing needs of both fishers and non-fishers, for whom fish plays a role as a source of food, income, and employment. We conclude that understanding the diverse nature of fishery activities and the role they play in rural livelihoods is essential if we are to avoid making potentially damaging assumptions about the nature of fishing and the contribution of fish to the lives of the poor, leading to unintended interventional outcomes. We also argue that fishers are not passive beneficiaries of interventions, but rather ‘drivers of change’ responding to the opportunities and constraints with which they are presented. a Scientist, Natural Resources Management, WorldFish Center, Cambodia b Regional Coordinator for East and Southeast Asia, WorldFish Center, Malaysia. (Corresponding Author. Email: ) Fisheries&Poverty book.indb 15 10/28/08 3:32:16 PM Robert Arthur and Natasja Sheriff 16 Introduction As fish stocks are reported to be in decline throughout many of the world’s oceans and inland areas (e.g., Worm et al. 2006; Wong et al. 2007; Garcia and Newton, 1997), concerns have been increasing in recent years not only for the environmental impact of such declines, but also for the potential effects of fish stock decline on the millions of people around the world who depend on fish as both a source of food and livelihood. Globally, over 25 million people are estimated to be involved in the fishery industry, with Asia accounting for 85 per cent of this number (FAO, 2007). However, these figures may underestimate the true number of people involved, for whom fishing is not a full-time occupation. In addition, this figure does not take into account the millions of people who are indirectly involved in fishery activities through engagement in the many upstream and downstream occupations related to fish capture and aquaculture production. As a source of foreign exchange, fisheries generate export revenues in South and Southeast Asia alone of over $10 billion annually (Silvestre et al. 2003). Despite high levels of overexploitation, global capture fisheries and aquaculture produced 106 million tons of food fish in 2004, representing an average 16.6 kg per capita/year (FAO, 2007). Asacontributortofoodsecurity,fishhashighnutritionalvalue,providing high quality protein, essential vitamins and minerals, and a valuable source of fatty acids. Fish is considered particularly crucial to the diets of people in coastal areas where dependence on fish is high (Sugiyama et al. 2004). At the global level, approximately one billion people rely on fish as their main source of animal protein. In South and Southeast Asia, the fishery sector produces food totaling 16.1 mt/year, providing an average per capita consumption of 24 kg/year, compared to a world average of 15kg/year (Silvestre et al. 2003). As a source of animal protein, fish is of particular significance in Asia. Table 2.1 shows the findings of recent surveys that evaluated fish production and consumption of fish species in 10 countries in Southeast Asia, where fish accounts for 15-54 per cent of animal protein intake. Fisheries&Poverty book.indb 16 10/28/08 3:32:16 PM Fish and the Poor 17 Table 2.1 Contribution of Fisheries to GDP and Nutrition in Asian Countries Country Popn (x106 ) (2005)1 Popn under poverty line (%)2 Annual fisheries production (2005)3 Contribution of fisheries to national GDP (%)4 Per capita fish consumption (kg...


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