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The Blue Economy

Broadbill swordfish (Xiphias gladius) dead in fishing net. The net is used for Bluefin tuna in a Mattanza fishery (ancient fishing ritual). Swordfish are sometimes caught by accident (bycatch). San Pietro, Italy.

The ‘Blue Economy’ is an emerging concept that encourages sustainable exploitation, innovation, and stewardship of our ocean and its lifegiving ‘blue’ resources.

Our oceans are important, and it is vital to ensure the sustainability of its resources. The ocean regulates our climate and provides the air we breathe. The ocean absorbs 25 per cent of all carbon emissions, while generating 50 per cent of the oxygen we need to survive.

The ocean provides jobs for many and secure livelihoods for millions worldwide. The ocean is a tool for economic development as ocean economies are growing rapidly especially ocean-related tourism economies.

The most important function is the food supply that the ocean provides. The ocean and its biodiversity provide our global community with 15 per cent of the animal protein that we consume.

In lesser developed countries, seafood, mainly fish, is the primary source of protein to approximately over 50 per cent of the population. It is therefore critical to protect the ocean’s biodiversity and practise sustainable fishing strategies for continued consumption.

As we enter the Lenten period, it is customary to consume more seafood, especially fish. It is important though to avoid buying bycatch. Bycatch is a fish or other marine species that is caught unintentionally while fishing for specific species or sizes of wildlife.

There are four common types of bycatch which include fish that are unintentionally caught but still sold in markets with the intended species. Certain characteristics of a target fish species may cause fishermen to avoid bringing them to sale. Some species of fish bycatch are protected and thus cannot be sold, and other non-fish marine animals may be caught as bycatch.

Bycatch is a serious ecological and economical problem. Animals that are discarded often die and cannot reproduce, impacting marine ecosystems. Bycatch can slow the rebuilding of overfished stocks, and place protected species such as whales and sea turtles at further risk. Bycatch of species like corals and sponges can cause damage to protected corals and to important fish habitat. Bycatch of non-target fish can contribute to overfishing and slow efforts to rebuild fish stocks.

To ensure the sustainability of our oceans, we need to avoid fish bycatch and one simple way to do it is to avoid purchasing fish that are not within the standard market sizes. Protecting our oceans start with us!


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