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Industrial 'Ocean Grabbing' Causing Untold Damage: UN Expert

'Future generations will pay the price when the oceans run dry'

- Common Dreams staff

Large-scale industrial fishing fleets are draining resources from the world's oceans and have greatly threatened food security across the world through "ocean grabbing," or wasteful practices such as industrial-trawling, according to a new report by the United Nations' special rapporteur on food, Olivier de Schutter.

Greenpeace overfishing demonstration (Photo: Agence-France Presse) Schutter urged Tuesday for governments to instead support local small-scale fisheries, in order to ensure the sustainability of the oceans' ecosystems that nations so widely depend on.

"Future generations will pay the price when the oceans run dry," Schutter stated Tuesday, suggesting global fishing fleets should be cut drastically to ensure that stocks are not depleted.

"'Ocean-grabbing,' in the shape of shady access agreements that harm small-scale fishers, unreported catch, incursions into protected waters, and the diversion of resources away from local populations, can be as serious a threat as 'land-grabbing,'" he said.

"License and access agreements" between industrial fishing companies and countries, which largely neglect independent or small-scale fishers, allow the long-distance industrial trawlers to wastefully scoop up fish, and are largely to blame for the crisis.

"Ocean-grabbing is taking place," Schutter told Reuters. "It's like land-grabbing, just less discussed and less visible."

"It is clear that as fish are becoming less abundant, fishing vessels are tempted to evade rules and conservation strategies... without rapid action to claw back waters from unsustainable practices, fisheries will no longer be able to play a critical role in securing the right to food of millions," Schutter told Agence-France Presse.

Between 10 million and 28 million tonnes out of 78.9 million tonnes of global annual trawled fish are illegally caught. Roughly 7.3 million tonnes are discarded.

The report specifies that local fishing is far more efficient and less wasteful than industrial fishing, urging measures to promote small-scale fishing such as the creation of "artisanal fishing zones."

"Small-scale fishers actually catch more fish per gallon of fuel than industrial fleets, and discard fewer fish," the report finds.