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Global fish trade and the environment
By Amelia Hapsari

The traditional fishermen in Balobaloang got a bag of fish a day, while the dynamite fisher got a boat full of fish. Although it seems like a local battle of resources between the fishermen and the greedy fishery with bombs and cyanide, destructive fishing is actually fueled by the growing global fish trade.

People in Balobaloang know that fish caught by cyanide will be marketed overseas with high price. Meanwhile, it is the coral reef in Balobaloang that has become bleached out and damaged. The seafood market in Hong Kong, U.S. or Europe enjoyed the seemingly bountiful fresh seafood, while the people in Balobaloang grieved the disappearance of fish stocks.

Scientists have warned that a global crisis of seafood is looming. A group of marine biologists led by Borris Worm published a report on the November 3rd, 2006 issue of Science on the possibility of no seafood left by 2048 if we don't change the way we fish. The U.N. has also published a report that 77% of our food sources from the sea has been either exploited to the maximum or depleted.

This alarming note comes to a stark contrast with the increasing seafood commodity that is consumed each year. J.R. Pegg from the Environment News Service wrote that the market for marine products has doubled in the last 30 years. Demand is expected to keep increasing with a rate of 1.5 percent a year until the year of 2020. By that time, there may be very little we can do to save our ocean.

The increase in seafood consumption is driven by the liberalization and globalization of fish trade. Fish that were traditionally caught only for local consumption can now find their lovers all over the world. Not only that, many developing countries are now signing trade agreements with their richer partners. These agreements eliminate tariff and trade barriers for various products including seafood.

The elimination of trade barriers has made seafood cheaper and more available. Cheaper products push demands, and demands encourage fishermen and fish exporters to get more fish. Developing countries with fishing communities are thrown into the wheel of producing more fish for exports to developed countries. Without tight control, law enforcement, and proper fishery management, destructive fishing practices are mushrooming in developing countries that perceive export demands as their way out of poverty.

Karen Sack, in her presentation titled "Fillet for France, Fish-heads for the Philipines" has presented three UNEP cases where fish stocks drop after tariff is nullified. In February 2007, for the Environment Change and Security Program of Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC, Sack noted that after signing a non-tariff agreement for fish export with EU, 6 Argentine stocks were endangered. Sack mentioned that species disappearance has also been witnessed in Senegal and Mauritania after similar agreement with the EU. When the country has not been able to maintain a sustainable fishery, Sack argued that increase in export would in the end endanger the environment and thus the food security of that country.

Balobaloang has proved that these cases do not only affect Argentine, Senegal, and Mauritania. Coastal and Marine Campaign Manager for Indonesian Environmental Forum M Riza Damanik predicted that in 10 years, the marine industry in Indonesia will collapse because of sharp decline in marine products. Urban dwellers in Indonesia have not been able to detect a huge impact on the market. Fish never disappears from the market. But for Balobaloang people whose livelihood depends on fishing, the decrease of fish has hit hard.  


No Fish by 2050
by Jack Penland for ScienCentral

The Barren Sea: Fisheries in Crisis

The Global Fish Crisis Looms
by J.R. Pegg from Environment News Service, posted September 30, 2004

Running into Troubled Water - the fish trade and some implications?
By Deepali Fernandes, Associate Legal Officer, UNCTAD for Evian Group Policy Brief, November 2006
Download pdf copy here.

Globalized Trade and Macroeconomics of Capture Fisheries
By Alison Williams for Wilson Center

Fish Crisis will Destroy Marine Resources

The Fish Crisis
By Madeleine Nash for the Time

Japan Cancels Import Tariffs of 51 Indonesian Fish Products

WTO, NAMA, and Protecting Natural Resources

Also in this section:

The importance of a coral reef ecosystem
What is a coral?
Elements that influence a coral reef ecosystem
Threats to coral reef
Coral reef and global warming
Why do we try to protect the coral reef?
Indigenous knowledge of the marine ecosystem on Balobaloang

Destructive fishing practices
Dynamite fishing
Cyanide Fishing
Knowledge and practice of sustainable fishing on Balobaloang

Academic works and research on Balobaloang

Global fish trade and the environment


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