Give a person a fish and you will feed him or her for a day; teach a person to fish and the world will soon run out of fish. This twist on the traditional saying is a reflection of the current state of the global fishing industry, and a powerful motivator behind the work of uOttawa international development professor Melissa Marshcke.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in human [fish] consumption,” says Marschke, who, for the past 12 years, has studied the delicate relationship between livelihood and resource governance in Cambodia, where many households rely on fish for food security and employment.
“Since the 60s, people have gone from eating 22 pounds of fish per year to 38 pounds per year,” says Marschke. Combined with the global fish shortage, the increase in consumer demand could prove to be crippling to resource–dependent communities.
Research by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicates as much as 80% of the world’s primary catch species are being exploited beyond or close to their harvest capacity. If current trends continue, all of the species we use for food will disappear by 2048.
On November 15, Marschke participated in Sustainable Food for Thought, a panel discussion on sustainable food practices, where fishing was on the menu of topics.
Given that many of our large species have been fished out, Marschke says it’s also time for Canada to take a closer look at adopting its own sustainable fishing policies.
“We need to lobby our government to set quotas and monitor fish consumption,” she says. “We need to make more informed eating decisions about where our fish come from.”
But making sustainable food choices may be more complicated then it seems.
“It’s not as simple as ‘going organic’ or supporting local farmers,” explains Marschke. “Those are part of the pieces of the puzzle, but one needs to look at agricultural policies at the national and global levels. Consumers need to examine how inequities are produced.”