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Advancing Sustainable Development Goal 14
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Sustainable fish, seafood value chains, trade and climate

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Oceans and seas have always been a major source of food and central to employment opportunities, recreation, trade, culture and economic benefits to many people throughout the world. Global fish production was estimated at 172.6 million tonnes in 2017, supplying around 21 kg/capita per year and 17 per cent of global animal proteins and essential micronutrients. Upstream and downstream activities along the fish and seafood value chain provided significant employment and economic benefits to countries and local coastal communities. As a result, around 59.6 million people were employed in fisheries and aquaculture in 2016 and some 200 million direct and indirect employment opportunities occur along the fish and seafood value chain.

Likewise, fish and seafood are among the most traded food commodities. Some 35 to 38 per cent of the world production enters international trade and generated $152 billion in 2017. Over 50 per cent of this trade originates in developing countries. In Pacific Small Island Development States (SIDS), fishing can provide between 30 and 80 per cent of exports – an advantage of the large Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and the economic values they are able to capture from fish species such as tuna.

Unfortunately, rapid exploitation of living aquatic resources during recent decades has been undertaken in an unsustainable manner in several parts of the world leading to overfishing, degradation of fish stocks, habitats, ecosystems and biodiversity. The resulting economic loss is estimated at $83 billion per year for fisheries and over $6 billion per year from diseases in aquaculture. This is further exacerbated by climate change, which is likely to have a severe effect on fishing and fish farming communities in many parts of the world causing loss of livelihoods, displacement and migration of populations because of floods, storms or changes in fisheries distributions.

In 2015, the international community adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with a Global Goal devoted for the first time to Oceans and Seas. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 is exclusively dedicated to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. It has ten targets relating to marine pollution, protecting marine and coastal ecosystems, minimizing ocean acidification, sustainable management of fisheries and ending harmful fisheries subsidies, conserving coastal and marine areas, increasing economic benefits to SIDS and Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Achieving the trade related targets of SDG 14 requires the catalysis of policies, investment and innovations to restore the productive capacity of the oceans and increase economic benefits to developing countries, in particular SIDS and LDCs. Innovations that integrate best practices for harvesting, value addition in processing and distribution, can benefit greatly from opportunities offered around the concepts of Oceans economy/blue economy, eco-labelling and certification, value chain analysis and seafood clusters.

The importance of effective partnerships to enable collective action with the full participation of all relevant stakeholders cannot be emphasized enough. UNCTAD, FAO and UN Environment jointly deposited a set of voluntary commitments at the United Nations Ocean Conference in June 2017, aimed to support member countries with technical assistance, capacity building and information dissemination on the trade-related issues associated with SDG 14. The convening power and expertise of the three agencies can provide a strong differential in supporting countries to progress towards achieving trade related targets of SDG 14 and to be in a better position to participate in relevant trade negotiations.

This background note reviews current trends and projections of fish and seafood trade, and recent work undertaken to support implementation of the trade related activities of SDG 14, with a focus on the work of UNCTAD, FAO and UN Environment. It flags the main issues encountered and sets the scene for the discussions of the Forum. It draws on the complementary experiences and mandates of UNCTAD, FAO and UN Environment to make recommendations to key stakeholders and propose innovative approaches and tools around the oceans/blue economy, value chain analysis, certification and eco-labelling to strengthen the capacity of developing countries in meeting the trade related targets of SDG 14.

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