By Mwangi Mumero
The global fishing industry faces a gloomy 2021 after being hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a 4th February report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), continued lockdowns in key markets will greatly affect the demand and supply in the fisheries and aquaculture food systems.
The report, ‘The impact of Covid-19 on fisheries and aquaculture food systems’. Indicates that fish supply, consumption and trade revenues for 2020 are expected to decline due to containment measures. It also predicts the global aquaculture production will fall by 1.3 per cent-
-the first fall record by the sector in several years.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused widespread upheaval in fisheries and aquaculture. Production has been disrupted, supply chains interrupted and the consumer spending restricted by various lockdowns,” FAO deputy director-general Maria Helena Semedo said during the recent release of the report.
According to Dr Semedo, containment measures have provoked far-reaching consequences, many of which are likely to persist in the long term.
According to the report, aggregate prices for 2020 as measured by the Fish Price Index are down year-on-year for most traded species.
Restaurant and hotel closures in many countries have also led to a fall in demand for fresh fish products.
The fishing industry in developing nations continues to be hardest hit by this pandemic.
“The impact has been significant in developing countries, especially those with large informal sectors, where small-scale and artisanal workers and communities depend on fisheries for their food security, livelihoods. They have borne the brunt of restrictions,” Dr Semedo added.
The report further notes, unsold production will result in increased levels of live fish stocks, and in return will create – higher costs for feeding, as well as greater number of fish mortalities for fish farmers.
Global catches from wild fisheries declined slightly in 2020 since there has been reduced fishing activities due to the set Covid‑19 restrictions on fishing vessel crews, as well as the markets.
Overall, consumer preferences have also shifted during the pandemic.
While demand for fresh fish has declined, consumer demand for packaged and frozen products has grown as households look to stock up on non-perishable food.
Before the pandemic, the fishing sector was on a general upward trend, with the global production of fish products in 2018 hitting nearly 179 million tonnes
According to the study, per capital fish consumption in the last decade grew to an average of over 20 kilos per person.
The report calls for sectoral and regional organisations to work together in order to manage fisheries and aquaculture during this time of pandemic. They should put in place measures supporting job protection and also ensure a fast recovery of the sector without compromising its sustainability.
The impact of Covid-19 on women, as a vulnerable group, the report says, should also be considered. Women are the food producers, processors, vendors and careers along the fish value chain and should be adequately supported by the government