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"A Blueprint for Blue Action"

News from 2017-11-13 / KfW Development Bank

Portrait of Inger Andersen
Inger Andersen, head of IUCN, says the situation of the world´s oceans is very serious.

Inger Andersen, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), thinks it´s high time to speed up protection for the world´s oceans. In this interview the Danish national talks about an enlargement of marine protected areas, responsible fishery and the necessity to help community fishers. She also recommends KfW´s "Blue Action Fund" as a blueprint for others.

How seriously endangered are the world´s fish stocks?

The situation is very serious. About 90% of the world´s fish stocks are now fully exploited or overfished. That is bad news. At the same time, fish are absolutely critical for our nutrition and our lives. The oceans ensure that we have healthy diets and enough protein. About 17% of the global population’s intake of animal protein is from fish. So we need fish and yet fish production is reaching its sustainable limit. So we have to make greater investments in preserving what we need for the future.

Does that include investments in aquaculture?

Definitely, aquaculture plays a critical role because it can be an important part of the global efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goal on hunger. Already today about half of the overall fish production comes from aquaculture. And it will increase further. But we need to do it right. It has to be sustainable aquaculture, with a high regard for the environment.

Is there a limit or could you pump up aquaculture endlessly?

I am sure you could if you managed the investments carefully. Many of these aquaculture installations are in sensitive ecological areas. Pollution and the challenge of diseases have to be addressed. Using wild fish for fish feed is also not recommendable as it only increases the pressure on wild fish stocks. This defeats the whole purpose of the measure, which is to alleviate this pressure. But if aquaculture is well handled with good regulations, good laws and good law enforcement it is a very important way to secure an adequate intake of protein for humans.

Fish are essential. One way of saving them for the future is protection. However, right now only about 3% of the oceans are protected. Why don´t we get larger numbers quicker?

One of the reasons is that oceans are wide and go way beyond national jurisdiction. Also, not all countries have fully understood that fishing less can lead to more income. The World Bank published a report earlier this year that came to the conclusion that fishing less and more sustainably could generate about USD 83 billion more for the industry per year.

Do you think the industry understands that already?

I do because an increasing number of companies today know that they have to work with the reality of nature´s reproduction curve. Just think of the different certifications we have. All this is not going fast enough, but we are moving in the right direction. Part of the effort certainly has to be more protection. The internationally agreed target says 10% of the world’s oceans should be protected by 2020. We at IUCN think it should be much more, around 50%.

Do you think even the 10% can be met?

Absolutely, it can be achieved. And I think it has to be achieved. Nature, by the way, is very, very forgiving. If you protect it before species go extinct, nature will bounce back.

Let´s talk about poorer people. What should be done to help them to get over times when there is less fishing allowed than what they need for their existence?

Although community-based fisheries are not the main cause of overfishing, a lot can and should be done to make fish more valuable for communities: improve the supply chain, invest in cold storage and better access to markets. Those are the kinds of investments that can add value and help fishermen earn what they need for their living.

What about the high seas. They are not covered by international law so far…

Here we are still in the infancy. The high seas are not properly governed and we need a degree of regulation here as well. These discussions are just beginning at the UN-level – a development which we at IUCN very much endorse, and are actively involved in.

Another major threat is the littering with plastic. What in your view should be done to tackle that problem?

We have to start on land: a number of countries have banned certain types of plastic; that´s excellent. The management of plastic waste is also very important, through charges and regulations but also through enhanced municipal waste management and waste collection. We also need to look at getting a much greater degree of circular economy. And then we have to find new ways of producing plastic. The original goal of plastic was to have it as long-lasting as possible. Now, we need it to degrade as fast as possible without affecting the environment.

Where do you as IUCN intend to scale up your activities for the oceans?

We bring together different stakeholders from local fishers to tourism representatives – and intend to do so in a growing number of countries because we think that is particularly effective. Secondly, we want to put new facts on the table through research or mapping of the oceans. Thirdly, we want to reach out to the health sector because we don´t know enough about the impacts of plastic on human health yet. That is a serious knowledge gap. Fourth, we support countries in setting up regulatory or legal frameworks. So, it´s mobilizing, mapping and research, health and law.

KfW has created the Blue Action Fund which aims at financing among others sustainable fishing schemes. How do you asses this new instrument?

This is an absolutely outstanding effort by KfW because the fund offers significant financing to marine and coastal conservation. It´s exactly these kinds of instruments that we need to see.

Is the Blue Action Fund unique?

I cannot think of a similar instrument. It is really superb to have German leadership in this regard with a focus on fishing communities and poverty reduction. So this is really very good. We hope that this Blue Action Fund will serve as a blueprint for others.

The interview was conducted by Friederike Bauer.

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