This article is written by Esha Maken.
The pandemic that began with a little tiny creature caused the world a havoc of loss. The effects of this virus have been far reaching, either directly or indirectly. There have been industries, places, living creatures both humans and animals and a lot more than this that have suffered due to the ravages caused by the Covid-19 virus.
While human life has been the utmost centre of attention for the entire world, there have been many factors and areas that got almost unnoticed while the sufferers of them were still huge and these issues are of paramount importance to be focused upon.
The global pandemic had been nothing less than a shock for the entire world and while the states at global level were busy curbing its ill-effects, this pandemic was still, somewhere, somehow leaving its mark at various parts, amidst various communities and in various industries and these impacts had been not at all easy to be borne by those who actually had to face them.
The impact of the Covid-19 on the seafood industry and the aquaculture had been tremendously huge and the people who actually rely solely on seafood, had to go through a lot while the food supply chain got hampered due to the various measures taken while trying to prevent the ill-effects of the pandemic.The hindrances posed as a result of straining the acquisition of inputs due to the deranged exports caused some major negative effects on the aquaculture industries.
In the endeavours to fight the spread the Covid-19 virus, measures like lock down, complete residential stays, bans on travel and movement, diminution of various businesses had to be brought into implementation by various states across the globe and these measures had to be followed with extremities in order to curb the damages caused by the spread of the virus.
But all the emergency manoeuvres taken in the light of safeguarding the health, have caused troubles and hassles in the otherwise normal trade and transportation of various commodities, thereby also affecting the employment of many. While considering the fisheries and aquaculture industry, it has to be noted that the consequences could be very bad as any hindrance caused to the activities revolving around this industry can eventually cause huge shortages and inadequacy of the fish food supply chain and that can have an extensive and profound effect not only hampering the routine lives of the people dependent on this industry but also actually badly breaching the basic human right to food and nutrition of many.
What is Aquaculture?
Aquaculture deals with the process of rearing or farming aquatic animals and plants respectively. In last few decades, this industry is slowly developing and emerging as one of the most transitioning industries as the consumers as well as dependents of this industry are increasing at a high pace.
Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, algae, and other organisms in all types of water environments.
Aquaculture can be defined as the farming of fish and other aquatic organisms, with ‘farming’ implying
(a) Some form of intervention to increase yields, and
(b) Some form of private ownership of the stock subject to intervention.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms, including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc.
Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated. For statistical purposes, aquatic organisms which are harvested by an individual or corporate body which has owned them throughout their rearing period contribute to aquaculture, while aquatic organisms which are exploitable by the public as a common property resource, with or without appropriate licences, are the harvest of fisheries.”
Why is it important to look into the aquaculture and fisheries industry?
When we consider the globalised world, there is a copious percentage of the world population that actually rely on the capture fisheries and aquaculture for their daily consumption of food as well as earning a livelihood for themselves and their family. The fisheries and aquaculture industry not only provide employment to a good percentage of the population worldwide but also is a basic source of nutrients, especially for the poor and developing states.
This industry is also one of the basic and fundamental sources of income for various developing nations. Almost around forty-one million people around the world are dependent on the contributions made by these industries for their livelihood and employment. The fisheries and aquaculture industry contribute immensely in manifold ways.
This industry interdependently contributes a whole lot to the food as well as nutrition security and the produce from this is the food for the poor and the undernourished for their need of protein. Moreover, for the people in developing countries, the cheap prices of the products actually make it more accessible to them on a daily basis.
There are many parts across the world where fish as their staple diet as well as a healthy nutritious diet is considered to be very crucial. Not only fish products are some of the healthiest and robust protein-rich foods but also cause the least amount of damage when it comes to the natural environment.
As a result of which, they are quite significant when it comes to the global food security and nutrition strategies at regional, national and global level. Moreover, they have a vital role to play in revolutionizing food systems while also backing in getting rid of and reducing hunger and malnutrition.
If we consider the statistics, it will throw light on how important the entire aquaculture industry actually is and that would lead us to believe how any impact on the produce of this can have a great impact on a lot of population around the world.
According to the Information paper, November 2020 by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the production of fisheries and aquaculture, in the year 2018, had reached the highest of the all-time as nearly about 179 million tonnes in live weight equivalent was produced during the year with overall capture fisheries being 96.4 million tonnes represented by 54 percent of the total, while aquaculture, with 82.1 million tonnes, accounted for 46 percent.
The developing nations, primarily Asian countries, have been the highest producers and among them, China, Indonesia, India, Viet Nam and Peru were the key producers in 2018.
Out of the total fish production, approximately 89 percent is utilised and subjected to human consumption while the other remaining part to be utilised for non-food uses out which about approximately 45 percent of fish for human consumption is vented in live and fresh form.
Interestingly, during the last few decades, the world per capita fish food consumption has escalated dramatically, the figures being from 9 kgs during the 1960s to approximately 20.3 kgs during the year 2017. Fish consumption is reported to be seventeen percent of the total world’s population intake of animal proteins globally.
All these data prove how significant the industries’ produce actually is to the globalised world that we reside in. Apart from the fact of it is highly demanded by the food population, the countries across the world are very much interdependent on each other when it comes to this industry as the production, the process and the consumption is not always carried on by a single country.
Thus, there is a huge amount of population that is actually relying on this industry for their consumption of food and thus this industry plays a major role when it comes to food security around the world.
While the globalised trade has provided an edge to many industries, the fisheries and aquaculture industry have benefitted from it too, for the world trade has impacted the fish and fish products immensely making them the most traded food commodities at the global level with the export of total ship production being about 38 per cent. This has not only helped the producers of this industry but also the consumers as they get varieties and choices while consuming their daily food.
As the evolving technology and maritime trade became a factor for the growth of the industry, there has been a stable and increasing demand for the products since the last few decades. People have started depending on the industry more and more. Moreover, with the increasing population, the increase in income of the people, urbanization and many such ancillary factors, the consumption is expected to keep increasing making it important to focus on this industry and make sure to make its supply meet the demand.
Impact of covid 19 on Aquaculture
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the world in unimaginable and unrepairable ways and while the world is still fighting a battle against this pandemic, it becomes necessary to study and analyse the effects it has caused on various industries in order to curb them as well as bring solutions to them.
Due to the pandemic and the measures taken for preventing the same, there has been a huge effect found on the production along with market disruptions due to the hindrances in the continuous flow of supply.
In order to carry out smooth and easy fisheries and aquaculture activities, it becomes necessary that all the stages coming under its ambit are followed appropriately. The stages and activities like production, processing, transportation and distribution of both wholesale as well as retail market are some of the very fundamental and important activities that need to be functioned and implemented well in order to see that the production reaches the end-users and each of these play a vital role in order to be assured about the favourable outcomes through the expected supply chain.
But given that the coronavirus pandemic had left no stone unturned in affecting the world at large, there has been a significant amount of halt and disruptions caused to these enlisted activities, thereby making it difficult to actually achieve the end results. The lockdowns at various places announced as a part of the measures to curb the reach of the virus has actually affected this industry in many ways and most of them being negative in nature.
The effects are not only limited to the disruptions in supply and transportation but also the overall lifestyle of the people and community who are actually dependent on this industry. There has been losing of employment for many while food security still remains the major issue and matter of concern. Many households have been observed facing financial issues while also trying to reduce their spending in order to increase the savings but all this imbalance in the otherwise on-going transactions have affected the entire industry badly.
The consumers as well the producers have been seen suffering through this a lot. As the demand for the product decreased, it had a direct impact on the production, processing and distribution not only on a regional or national level but also at an international level around the globe as the supply chains were hit hard due to the closure of various services caused due to the lockdown at various places.
The regions dependent on tourism for their incomes and the supply were also highly affected. Adding to the already existing state of worries was the fact that perishable produce was also in a way causing hurdles to the overall supply chain.
The problems faced by this industry can also have an impact on the stock fishing which can actually hamper the sustainable fishing goals and cause a major hindrance in securing the rights of the future generation as well as the protection of the marine creatures which are the main products of this industry.
The population depending on this industry for its employment and daily wages have been affected badly too and while all of these facts seem saddening, the reality is even more distressing.
There are many nations including developing ones and small island nations around the world that solely are dependent on these industries and the halt on the imports and exports at the international level has also caused anguish and suffering to the people, population, communities and countries dependent on this industry at large. While malnutrition and lack of scarce resources have always been a few of the problems of the developing nations, all the resulting consequences of the pandemic has added to the worrisome state of these nations.
Looking at the legal side
The activities of the aquaculture industry need to be studied under the legal lens as it is not only a developing industry but also has a very wide scope when it comes to its impacts on the states around the world. The various activities included under its ambit is believed to be the focus area of many marine-oriented researchers, lawyers and environmentalists.
The activities not only provide for various communities of the world but also use the marine environment and ecosystem while meeting the end results and therefore the legal issues it raises has to be considered while studying this industry.
Aquaculture is very closely related to the environment while also having major impacts and dependence on the land as well as aquatic species resulting in various environmental changes.
The far-reaching impact that the activities of this industry are having on different areas and species makes it look like its impacts are in a way omnipresent, either directly or indirectly and therefore looking into the legal aspect becomes important and necessary so as to protect the interests of all.
Thus, there is an inclusion of provisions regarding the management, build-out and regulation of this industry that has been made in various legal documents thereby making it backed by legal sanctions and regulations.
Since any changes and disruptions caused in this industry affects directly or indirectly at regional, national as well as international level, the legal measures necessarily are meant to be taken. Legally implementing the policies can give long term and effective results. Moreover, legal backings can always give an edge over otherwise accepted norms in order to get expected positive results.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations acts as the regulatory authority for overseeing the fisheries and aquaculture industry at the international level. It provides for legal advice and assistance to the member nations while also providing for the legislation with the view to ensure development as well as contributing to national efforts towards realising and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
In order to see that the users and consumers of this industry don’t stay on a losing side, we need to make sure that certain restrictions for this industry are actually reduced and eased. The fishers, the aquaculture workers and the employees connected with this industry should be considered as essential frontline workers as they provide the basic source of life i.e., food to many communities around the world.
We must remember and acknowledge the fact that there are numerous nations across the globe that are actually dependent on the fish products and fishery industries for their basic fundamental incomes as well as consumer needs. There must be certain liberty and privileges provided to the migrant workers working in the seafood industry so as to make sure that the easy flow of the transactions and transport of the fish products and fish commodities is maintained.
This can not only help in keeping the employment of poor wage labourers intact but also ensure the availability of proper stock at least to meet the demand to some extent.
If certain monetary and health incentives are provided to the families which are dependent on this industry and earning a daily minimum wage can also help them to an extent to live the bare minimum healthy lifestyle required for their wellbeing.
There is a need to collect and analyse data in the same sector about the drastic changes taking place in the demand and supply so as to formulate strategies for filling the huge gaps. There is also a need for better laws that could actually provide for stringent legislative and regulatory policies and this area gets protection from the law. Currently, this industry merely is seen as an economic benefit by the states but it becomes essential that this industry is now seen as the source for the basic daily requirement of food consumption. It is high time that we start considering this industry as the essential one and not merely a source of income.
There are also certain communities and classes of people who are vulnerable even in normal circumstances and the Covid-19 pandemic has made the situation even worst. It is necessary that food security and job security measures are immediately taken for the people belonging to these categories in order to avoid the loss of human lives because this pandemic has affected them really very bad and it becomes inevitable for the state to implement policies which can secure their interests and save them from the future loss and damages.
It is high time for us to consider the aquaculture industry as an inevitable one and take stringent measures so as to reduce the hindrances coming in the way of its growth. The hurdles faced by this industry will not only cause problems for the humans associated with it but also to the marine creatures and environment as sustainable aquaculture can never be maintained in crucial circumstances. This will raise issues for the future generations while the current generation might get away with little damages.
As the nations around the world are slowly reviving to normalcy while the curve getting flattened and Covid-19 cases coming to a decline, the after-effects of the pandemic are slowly coming to light and the picture is not good.
There are many industries like fishing and aquaculture that has been ignored or maybe completely avoided while considering the measures for combating this exceptionally dangerous situation of the pandemic.
The states must consider the human rights-based approach while considering various policies and strategies so as to protect the interests of the poor and marginalised wage-based labourers and also the vulnerable groups of society.
A pandemic like this do not hit the world very often but we never know what the future has in store for us and therefore being prepared is the best possible strategy for combating future pandemics and taking this one as a lesson, we must consider being alert and ready with policies which can actually help the majority classes of the people.
Manlosa, A.O., Hornidge, AK. & Schlüter, A. “Aquaculture-capture fisheries nexus under Covid-19: impacts, diversity, and social-ecological resilience”, 20, Maritime Studies, 75–85 (2021).
National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce
M.C.M. Beveridge, D.C. Little, “The history of aquaculture in traditional societies”,B.A. Costa-Pierce (Ed.), Ecological Aquaculture: The evolution of the Blue Revolution, Blackwell Science Limited, Oxford (2002)
Cambria Finegold, “THE IMPORTANCE OF FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE TO DEVELOPMENT”,2, The WorldFish Center, 353-364 (2009)
Ben Belton, Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, “Fisheries in transition: Food and nutrition security implications for the global South”, Volume 3, Issue 1, Global Food Security, Pages 59-66, ISSN 2211-9124, (2014)
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