Forward Thinking: The FAO and the EC

Aquaculture in Ireland © Kim Sawicki

Sustainable fishery practices that are “ecosystem-based” have been identified by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as a top priority for the next century. Industry, including both small and medium-scale operations (i.e., family-operated fisheries and artisanal fisheries) as well as commercial powerhouses, have been slower to acknowledge and adopt measures which are viewed as “sustainable” by FAO standards. These sustainable practices include measures that assist in the reduction of unintended bycatch and entanglements of marine mammals. With the European Union’s commitment to sustainably produced foods and their dedication to exploration and implementation of research and policy-making that is informed by science as well as industry, their successful measures serve as an excellent guide for US-based managed fisheries partners.

With an ecosystem-based approach to management of fisheries, the EC requested that “research…should address the social aspects of the seafood sector, which is essential for the cohesion of the social fabric in the European coastal areas”. This research has led to the development of policies and programs designed not only to produce a sustainable fisheries economy but to engage with coastal communities and artisanal fishermen in working groups that ensure all stakeholders have equal voice and engagement. Additionally, these EC-funded, EU-supported policies and voluntary stewardship collaborations and working groups serve as a viable model for overcoming many of the challenges we face in the US. These fisheries management programs should be comparatively examined not only on a policy level but through qualitative means, with a focus on cultural acceptance of initiatives through interviews and hands-on interactions with fisherman in their communities.

-Kim Sawicki November 2018