Bid farewell to groupers and snappers, unless fishing practices improve: WWF


KUALA LUMPUR: Some of Malaysia’s best-loved seafood such as groupers and snappers might soon disappear, harming an RM8.79 billion fishing industry, unless sustainable ocean management practices are implemented, WWF-Malaysia said.

“Just 10 percent of commercially valuable fish remain available for consumption after being largely fished-out in the last fifty years,” said Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma, Executive Director/CEO WWF-Malaysia.

“If business continues as usual in our fishing practices, we will experience an irreversible collapse in our fishing industry.”

Overfishing, destructive fishing methods (like fish bombing), pollution and unsustainable coastal development have led to significant declines in coral reefs, which are integral to the survival and health of marine life.

The recently released WWF’s ‘Living Blue Planet Report’ shows that the destruction of the world’s coral reefs have resulted in reduced marine populations on average by half, globally. Some fish species have declined by close to 75 percent, all of which have impacted the fishing industry while depriving people of an essential protein supply.

These declines will hit Malaysians particularly hard, with fish now being the most important protein source for the country. In 2014, Malaysia surpassed Japan as one the biggest consumer of fish and seafood in the region (reported in The Star article “Malaysians eat more fish than Japanese”, 18 August 2014).

The report also shows a decline of 49 per cent of marine populations between 1970 and 2012. The analysis tracked 5,829 populations of 1,234 species, making the data sets almost twice as large as past studies and giving a clearer, more troubling picture of ocean health.

The findings are based on the Living Planet Index, a database maintained and analysed by researchers at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). In response to alarming statistics raised in WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014, this special report studies how overfishing, damage to habitat and climate change are affecting marine biodiversity.

WWF-Malaysia has spent nearly half a century in its mission to protect and preserve the country’s marine life. Our latest initiative aims to meet the Aichi Biodiversity Target of protecting at least a tenth of its oceans.

“We are working with the state government of Sabah, businesses and communities to help protect almost one million hectares of ocean in the proposed Tun Mustapha Park (TMP),” said Dato’ Dr Sharma.

“This globally-significant park will protect the well-being and livelihoods of more than 80,000 people living on the coast and over 50 islands in northern Sabah and beyond.”

WWF-Malaysia wants the TMP to be gazetted as a marine park by the end of 2015, which will help Malaysia meet the global ocean protection target. Once gazetted, TMP will provide protection to coral reefs which are vital in protecting important marine species such as the Grouper and Snapper.

“As the Aichi Biodiversity Target is identified under the Green Growth Thrust of the 11th Malaysia Plan, we hope the Malaysian Government will make necessary allocations for implementations to protect our ocean and marine resources,” added Dato’ Dr Sharma.

The Living Blue Planet Report also finds that much of the activity threatening the ocean is avoidable and solutions do exist to turn the tide. Populations of fish critical to human food security are in serious decline worldwide, with some at risk of collapse, according to the emergency edition of a WWF report.

The updated study of marine mammals, birds, reptiles and fish shows that populations have been reduced on average by half globally in the last four decades, with some fish declining by close to 75 percent. The latest findings spell trouble for all nations, especially people in the developing world.

“We urgently published this report to provide the most current picture of the state of the ocean,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “In the space of a single generation, human activity has severely damaged the ocean by catching fish faster than they can reproduce while also destroying their nurseries. Profound changes are needed to ensure abundant ocean life for future generations.”

Research in the WWF report indicates that species essential to commercial and subsistence fishing – and therefore global food supply – may be suffering the greatest declines. Underscoring the severe drop in commercial fish stocks, the report details the dramatic loss of 74 per cent of the family of popular food fish that includes tunas, mackerels and bonitos.

Adding to the crisis of falling fish populations, the report shows steep declines in coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses that support fish species and provide valuable services to people. Over one-third of fish tracked by the report rely on coral reefs, and these species show a dangerous decline of 34 per cent between 1979 and 2010.

“The fortunate news is that solutions do exist and we know what needs to be done. The ocean is a renewable resource that can provide for all future generations if the pressures are dealt with effectively,” said Lambertini. “If we live within sustainable limits, the ocean will contribute to food security, livelihoods, economies and our natural systems. The equation is that simple. We must take this opportunity to support the ocean and reverse the damage while we still can.”

The Living Blue Planet Report details opportunities for governments, businesses and communities to secure a living ocean. Important measures to preserve ocean resources include preserving and rebuilding natural marine capital, wiser consumption and prioritizing sustainability.

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