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Water + Fish = Life

Water + Fish = Life. That's one way to sum up the message of World Fisheries Day, which will be celebrated this week on November 21. The day highlights the importance of aquatic animals and their watery habitats to sustaining human life around the world. As a source of food and income, fish form an important link between people and nature, be it in the ocean or rivers. However, this link is vulnerable to threats such as overfishing and large-scale environmental changes, such as climate change and ocean acidification. Once thought too bountiful to ever be depleted by humans, many fish populations now need special attention and active management to ensure their persistence and sustainability.


Fisheries range in size from large-scale commercial operations with high-tech devices, to small-scale artisanal or subsistence efforts in which the same gear types have been used for centuries. When it comes to fish as food, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that fish account for about 16.6 percent of the animal protein that humans consume worldwide (FAO 2012). On the income side, fisheries and aquaculture combined provide employment for some 54.8 million people around the world - of these, the vast majority (87%) live in Asia. One of the reasons FISHBIO focuses our international efforts on the Mekong River Basin is because of the vital role of fishes play in food security and livelihoods in the region.


In contrast to the bustling ports and large vessels that constitute many commercial ocean fisheries, the freshwater fisheries in the Mekong River are often small in scale and widely dispersed, meaning that many go unaccounted for in fisheries statistics (de Graaf et al. 2011). The FAO estimates that small-scale fisheries employ more than 90 percent of the world's capture fishers, or about 357 million people (FAO 2012). Subsistence fishing is an activity that involves men, women, and children alike, as we have seen firsthand in Lao PDR (see The season the "Lee" is in; Need a lift?; Little fishers). This week we tip our hat to the world's fishers and the fishes they catch, with the hope that a sustainable relationship between them will allow the tradition of fishing to persist for generations to come.

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Recent Blog Posts

Speaking the language of fish   

When trying to communicate across different languages and cultures, we sometimes look for creative ways to find common ground. As we've found through our international work in Lao PDR, a key factor that unites us with the fishers we work with is our shared interest in their local fish species. We recently visited some Lao villages to interview the resident fishers about their fishing practices. During the course of our conversation, we pulled out some handouts that depict the technology we use, and also explain FISHBIO's work in the Mekong River Basin. We hadn't yet translated the fliers into Lao, and some villagers are not even able to read... Read more >
IN THE NEWS: Recent stories you might have missed...
San Joaquin River restoration brings spawning salmon back to Fresno
Valley Public Radio 

California is on course for what could be its driest year on record. Those were the sobering words from scientists with the National Weather Service in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle. And after two dry years, the relative lack of rain and snow is putting a great strain on the state's precious water resources. 

But there's another big water story in our backyard - the restoration of the San Joaquin River... Read more > 

Great year for salmon topped by fall Chinook run  
Wenatchee World
It's a record year for this year's fall chinook run. By the end of the season, fish experts are forecasting that over 1 million of them will cross Bonneville Dam - already, more than 951,000 have been counted there. Some 32,800 have pushed their way into North Central Washington, swimming through the ladders at Rock Island Dam. These are numbers that haven't been seen since these Columbia River dams were built and fish counting started back in the 1930s... Read more >
Habitat project expands along Tuolumne, San Joaquin rivers
Modesto Bee
State agencies this week paid $9.3million to buy a 466-acre dairy and farm in Stanislaus County near the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers. The so-called Hidden Valley Ranch is about 10 miles southwest of Modesto. It will be taken out of agricultural production and used to provide floodplain habitat along with the adjacent 1,603-acre Dos Rios Ranch, which was acquired last year for the same purpose... Read more > 
NZ's fisheries performing well


The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has now released its 2013 summaries of the Status of New Zealand's Fisheries, which confirms most New Zealand fisheries are performing well. Highlights from the 2013 review show that: Both stocks of hoki have now increased for seven consecutive years and both are now well within or above their management targets. As a result it has been possible to increase the quota from 90,000 tonnes to 150,000 metric tonnes... Read more > 

Sardine catch levels lowered 

World Fishing & Aquaculture

Federal fishery management officials have voted to set 2014 catch levels of Pacific sardine off the US West Coast at 33% below what they would have been under the existing management regime. This follows a new assessment of Pacific sardine released at the end of October, which shows that the species is at its lowest biomass in 20 years and has declined by almost 979,000 tons since 2007, while the fishery removed 1,035,000 tons over the same period...  Read more >