Articles 2012

December 2012

World Fisheries – Who controls the Seas?

by Stacey Dunne, website research volunteer

While fishing must be one of humankind’s oldest resources, in recent decades the world’s population has started to over-exploit this invaluable resource.  Since the beginnings of our time on earth humans have used the sea and lakes as a food resource, but not until recently have we had the technology to fish on a scale previously unimaginable. It was estimated that in 2002, fish provided 20% of animal proteins to 2.6 billion people of the worlds’ population. Fisheries and aquaculture contribute significantly to food security and livelihoods. Fish provides essential nutrition for 3 billion people and at least 50% of animal protein and minerals to 400 million people from the poorest countries.Over 500 million people in developing countries depend, directly or indirectly, on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods – aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food production system, growing at 7% annually and fish products are among the most widely traded foods, with more than 37% (by volume) of world production traded internationally. To promote awareness of the serious issues that face this ecological system and to illustrate how important fishing is in our everyday lives, World fisheries day was set up, taking place worldwide on November 21st.

Climate change and pollution – both industrial and domestic – are some of the major sources that affect global fish stocks. Overfishing is another major issue that impacts this natural resource. Living beside the sea, lakes, rivers and oceans has always appealed to humans. Not only is water a great means of transport it is also key in the survival of any village, town or major city. However, close proximity to water – so central to human survival – has facilitated an increase in sewerage and other pollutants leaking into our rivers and oceans.

Ireland being an island, we have always relied on our rich fish stocks to supply the population and to export it to other countries. When Ireland joined the European Union (EU) in 1973 it was noted that there were countless benefits to the country and throughout our time as a part of this establishment we have had to abide by European legislation, especially in reference to our methods of fishing, i.e. where, when and what we are allowed to catch. Every country in the EU is given a quota of what quantity and species of fish each boat can catch. If the boat or trawler exceeds their quota they are obliged to put the already caught dead and mostly dead fish back into the water. This not only is a gargantuan waste of fish but is detrimental to the oceans eco-systems. In protest to this EU law, on October 4th this year, a Wexford fisherman gave away free monkfish to local people on Kilmore Quay harbour. He decided that instead of throwing excellent quality fish back into the sea and meeting his quota he would rather give it away and deal with whatever penalties the fishery board gave him.

Similarly off the coast of West Africa, local people are fed up with global interference and take-over of their waters that impact negatively on their livelihoods. Chinese, Korean and Russian trawlers are some of the major fleets found legally and illegally fishing in the area The biggest culprit, however, is the heavily subsidised European fleet, which catches hundreds of thousands tonnes of fish every day, catch which it then sells back to the African market. Furthermore, a staggering quarter of all the fish bought and sold in Europe is sourced in developing countries. Local fishermen with more sustainable fishing methods cannot compete with factory trawlers; a floating factory where fish can be caught, frozen and packaged all in one confined area.

To illustrate the impact on local fishermen, journalist John Vidal of the Guardian newspaper conducted a research documentary and discovered that it would take fifty Mauritanian boats a whole year to catch what one of these foreign trawlers catch in one day.  With these numbers how can fish stocks not be plummeting for local people, who have neither the finances nor the machinery to compete with such mechanical monstrosities? This global invasion is increasing tensions in the region – worryingly, before something is done to stop a conflict breaking out it might already be too late, as there may be no fish left to fight over.

In July the EU made an agreement to phase in a ban on throwing away healthy and edible fish. This action is one that I will certainly watch closely. If protests from the fishermen of Ireland and Mauritania to change the laws and steer factory trawlers away from local waters are not heard, there may be severe consequences for everyone involved. Overfishing and the impact it has on our everyday lives is an issue that should be known by everyone who eats fish. These days most people in the developed world want to know where their vegetables and meat are sourced from. I think there is no better time than now, just after world fisheries day; to finally ask where our fish truly comes from.

To find out more about overfishing and what you can do to prevent it, please click on the following links:

October 2012

It’s Social Inclusion Week!

… and we have a new volunteer! Welcome to Stacey Dunn, who will be writing updates and articles for our website 🙂

The Depths of Social Inclusion
by Stacey Dunne, website research volunteer

Social inclusion can be defined on a global, national and local level; no matter where you are in society, you are affected by social influences in your everyday life. According to the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) factors such as poverty, gender, age and social class are all elements influencing the degree of social inclusion at a global level, (UN Social Inclusion). As the on-going financial and economic crisis spirals further, the future of achieving social integration in these areas seems to be, unfortunately, rapidly deteriorating. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) aiding the integration process have had funding dramatically cut across the globe, at both national and local levels. The result? Underachievement; when compared with previous years, primarily due to a reduction in the staffing capacity, prompting poorer performance (Global Meltdown Leaves NGOs in Dire Straits). In addition, with today’s turbulent economic environment, the closure of several prominent agencies and service providers have become the norm, relaying dire consequences for those most affected and prone to social exclusion.

Although social inclusion incorporates the elements of poverty, gender and age, it is of vital importance to consider the outlying elements that foster the on-going issue of social inclusion/exclusion. The past two decades have seen technology develop at lightning speed, and with the onset of globalisation in the late 1980s, global interconnectivity has reached unfathomable heights. Generations of people are now entering an era where online connectivity is an incessant demand. While such advances in technology and the birth of social networking sites have surpassed any anticipated expectation of increased global interconnectivity, shattering geographical boundaries, they have simultaneously exacerbated social exclusion through cyber-bulling and other forms of on-line harassment. Through worldwide connectivity, these occurrences can quickly become global phenomena.

Technology itself can be a deciding factor regarding social exclusion. Who has access to new technologies, who controls the means and who has the resources and connections to act quickest often decides who sets the agenda. For example in March 2012, a video was launched by the charity Invisible Children named “Kony 2012”; introducing the world to Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony.  The video went viral, with over 93 million hits on YouTube. Justifiably the video has been met with immense scrutiny from the world’s media, international NGOs and developmental organisations, due to its oversimplification of events in the region and the inaccuracies of Kony’s actual whereabouts. In terms of the possibilities inherent in global connectivity, this example illustrates perfectly how information can be skewed; resulting in major pitfalls of inaccurate information reaching millions across the globe.

With people across the globe increasingly trusting, looking for and posting information on social media sites, the realms of social exclusion have deepened. Overall, social inclusion is about creating a fair and inclusive society, be it on a global or local level. In Ireland, especially at the moment, the aims of social inclusion may be hindered by lack of funding. Local councils and organisations lack the power to establish and host events that advocates social inclusion. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the public to appreciate what social inclusions entails and how we, on a local, national and global scale, can be active ambassadors promoting social inclusion. Raising awareness of the benefits surrounding social inclusion is the first step – please click onto this link for more information on Social Inclusion Awareness Week 2012 Galway happening this week.