United Nations: 45 million people fish for a living

Sport not food: a rod-caught Atlantic salmon, barbless fly removed, is kept in the water before its swift return.

It’s easy sometimes to forget what a serious and life-sustaining business fishing – and the associated health or otherwise of world fish stocks – is for many millions of people in the world.

Around 45 million people (at least 6 million of them women), according to a United Nations report launched yesterday, fish for a living and are threatened by overfishing and climate change.

I – and readers of this blog overwhelmingly – fish for sport, but I am not being entirely flippant with my blog tag-line ‘Born to fish, forced to work and fish’ as many times my hobby (or sport, rather), fishing (or angling) has intertwined with earning a living. Not that that’s the point. (There is also my fishing partner on the Gaula last summer who’s a professional sea-fisherman working boats out of Christchurch (UK) harbour – and so genuinely one of that 45 million world statistic.)

But underlying the sport of salmon fishing is the knowledge that we anglers are major custodians of our rivers and fish stocks and wild places. The onus on us is to take a sustainable harvest and in most instances this means practising catch-and-release. (Amazingly there are many angling dinosaurs – some of whom in other respects I like and respect – out there who have yet to latch on to the well-documented reality that the overwhelming bulk of carefully released salmon go on to survive and spawn, but that’s another story.)

Yesterday’s United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report focuses in part on the impact of climate change on the life and death struggle for food (fish being a great source of protein) in some of the world’s poorest countries. It says the vulnerability here is twofold: the countries most at risk also rely the most on fish for dietary protein, livelihoods and exports. Climate change is expected to lead to major declines in fish stocks in the Pacific Islands, say, while benefits are predicted at some northern latitudes, including around Alaska, Greenland, Norway and the Russian Federation.

Yes I know, the thought flickered across my mind too. A silver lining? No I’m not going to entertain it on this occasion.

Like those Brits who celebrate climate change as an opportunity to sunbathe on UK beaches and add a vineyard or two to their Home Counties estates – to insulate oneself in such a hubristic comfort-zone would be not only flippant, but also morally suspect, and in environmental terms deeply unwise.


About henrygiles

Born to fish forced to work and fish
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