Each year on November 21, communities across the globe unite to recognize World Fisheries Day. This is an opportunity for us all to celebrate the importance of our planet’s fisheries and the many communities and individuals who help protect and rely on these underwater resources. It is also a chance for us to reflect on the current state of our world’s fisheries and actions that can be taken to promote their future health.
This year, World Fisheries Day focuses on the importance of small-scale fisheries. Millions of people around the world rely on fisheries for food, nutrition, income, and tradition. And a substantial portion of these fisheries are small-scale- in fact, nearly 90 percent of people working in the fisheries industry are employed by small-scale organizations. And its not just our world’s oceans that sustain people. It is estimated that inland fisheries support at least 21 million fishers and contribute more than 40 percent of the world’s fish production.
Minnesotans are certainly familiar with the economic and cultural importance of freshwater fisheries. With thousands of lakes and miles upon miles of rivers and streams, many Minnesotans have first-hand experience on the water. Whether casting flies for skittish trout, cruising the northern lakes for feisty bass and walleye, or watching curious sunfish swarm your feet on the sandy lake bottom, many lifetime memories and “fish stories” have been created over generations as we engage with the fascinating and beautiful animals of our lakes and rivers.
As human communities from far and near continue to rely on fisheries for income, food, and recreation, we are also tasked with the responsibility of ensuring these resources are not pushed beyond their limit. It is vitally important to recognize that these resources are not limitless, and that we must take action on their behalf if we wish for them to remain healthy for generations to come. Today, it is estimated that one third of assessed fisheries are not sustainable, meaning they are headed towards likely collapse if we do not change our practices.
Luckily there are many ways each of us can be part of the solution! In Minnesota, you can help our local fisheries and bodies of water by reducing or eliminating your use of pesticides and fertilizers on lawns and gardens. These contaminants often end up washing into stormwater runoff and polluting our local lakes, rivers, and streams. And be sure to scoop that poop! Pet waste that is not picked up is also carried by runoff into bodies of freshwater and can bring with it harmful bacteria and levels of nutrients. You can also learn how to “Smart Salt” and prevent excessive amounts of chloride from polluting our lakes and rivers every year!
It is also important that we consider how our actions impact the planet’s ocean wildlife, regardless of how far we may be from the closest coast. One of the most impactful actions we can take is ensuring that our fish and seafood is harvested sustainably. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program aims to help people make better choices on behalf of our oceans. You can educate yourself with their many free resources and download their Seafood Watch guides and app so that you can be sure you are making “best choices” that benefit marine wildlife and the many human communities that rely on them.
Together we can take action and raise awareness on behalf of our planet’s fisheries to ensure that all aquatic wildlife continue to have a secure and healthy future!