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Better management of fisheries needed to prevent over-exploitation: UN agency

Better management of fisheries needed to prevent over-exploitation: UN agency

Countries could get more fish from the oceans if they allowed over-fished stocks to recuperate, reduce wastage and manage fisheries resources better, the Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today at a meeting in Iceland.

Opening the Reykjavik Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem, Dr. Jacques Diouf warned that the world's oceans were exhaustible. "Man is really not giving the fish in the sea much chance of escaping the fishing gear and allowing time to grow and reproduce," he said, adding that "there are too many vessels chasing too few fish."

According to FAO, the challenge is to determine how to manage the fisheries to ensure sustainable utilization of the food available in the oceans for the benefit of present and future generations, without harming the ecosystem's capacity to support human life.

The Reykjavik Conference, organized by the Government of Iceland and FAO, aims to gather and review the best available knowledge on marine ecosystem issues, identify means by which ecosystem considerations can be included in capture fisheries management, and lay out strategies for the future. A final declaration from the meeting, in which over 400 delegates from 70 countries participated, is expected to be submitted to the FAO Conference in November and to the 10th Session of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, also known as "UNCED+10," in September 2002.

In other news from FAO, the agency warned in a statement today that intensive land cultivation methods using tractors and ploughs were a major cause of severe soil loss and land degradation in many developing countries, especially in warmer areas where the topsoil layer is thin. Land degradation also occurs in industrialized countries due to exaggerated mechanized tillage using powerful heavy machines.

If farmers applied ecologically sound cultivation and the concept of "Conservation Agriculture," millions of hectares of agricultural land could be protected or saved from degradation and erosion, FAO said on the occasion of the opening of the World Congress on Conservation Agriculture, taking place in Madrid, Spain, from 1 to 5 October.

"Conservation Agriculture" involves drastically reducing tillage and keeping a protective soil cover of leaves, stems and stalks from the previous crop, which shields the soil surface from heat, wind and rain, keeps the soils cooler and reduces moisture losses by evaporation. Less tillage also means lower fuel and labour costs, and farmers need to spend less on heavy machinery, FAO said.