The World Day of Fisheries is celebrated every year in the world on 21 November by the fishing communities and is an opportunity to recognise the vast and sometimes undervalued source of food for millions of people, the sea. Fishing communities around the world celebrate this day with gatherings, workshops, public meetings, cultural programmes, dramas, exhibitions, music shows and demonstrations to highlight the importance of maintaining world fisheries. Working fishermen and women representing the World Forum of Fish Harvesters & Fish Workers from 18 countries met in New Delhi on 21 November 1997 to set up the World Fisheries Forum (WFF) calling for a global mandate for sustainable fishing practises and policies. A recent study by the United Nations reported that more than two-thirds of the world’s fisheries have been overfished or are fully harvested, and more than one-third are in decline due to factors such as loss of essential fish habitats, pollution and global warming. The World Fisheries Day helps to stress the critical importance of human life, of water and of the life it sustains, both in and out of the water.
Fish is an important part of the diet of people around the world, particularly those who live near rivers, coasts and other water bodies. There are a number of traditional societies and communities around the occupation of fishing. This is why most human settlements, whether small villages or mega cities, are located in close proximity to water bodies. Apart from the importance of water for survival and as a means of transport, it is also an important source of fish and aquatic protein. But this proximity has also led to serious ocean and coastal pollution from run-off and nearby domestic and industrial activities. This has led to the depletion of fish stocks in the immediate vicinity, requiring fishermen to fish farther and farther from their traditional grounds. In addition, overfishing and mechanisation have also resulted in a crisis-the depletion of fish sticks through ‘factory’ vessels, bottom trawling and other unsustainable fishing methods. If we do not address these issues collectively, the crisis will deepen. The World Fisheries Day helps to highlight these problems and moves towards finding solutions to the increasingly interlinked problems that we face and in the longer term, to sustainable means of maintaining fish stocks.
Celebrations of the World Fisheries Day serve as an important reminder that we need to focus on changing the way the world manages global fisheries to ensure sustainable stocks and healthy ocean ecosystems. Just last month, the United Nations General Assembly called on countries that have not yet done so to become parties to the Law of the Sea on jurisdiction over national and international waters, as well as seabed, and to maintain sustainable fisheries.
College of Fisheries, Central Agricultural University, Imphal