Inland Fisheries Are a Vital but Overlooked Tool for Ending Poverty

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Inland fisheries are critical for preventing poverty and ensuring sustainable livelihoods – but their contributions are often overlooked, say USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center researchers and partners in a new perspective paper.

Fish lay in a fish market

Vientiane Fish Market, Lao PDR

(Credit: Abigail Lynch, USGS. Public domain.)

Inland fisheries are critical for preventing poverty and ensuring sustainable livelihoods – but their contributions are often overlooked, say U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center researchers and partners in a new perspective paper published in Global Environmental Change.

The researchers make the case that inland fisheries are a critical component of unlocking the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals – specifically SDG 1: No poverty – and ought to be elevated in international-level policy discussions surrounding poverty prevention and alleviation.

Inland fisheries are found in lakes, rivers, streams, canals, reservoirs and other land-locked waters around the world. More than 57 million people worldwide are estimated to rely on inland fisheries and post-harvest processing for their primary employment. Countless more people use inland fisheries as a secondary occupation or source of nutrition. In many cases, the food, income and livelihoods provided by inland fisheries cannot be easily replaced by alternatives.

In impoverished countries, inland fisheries play an especially important role and have been called a “bank in the water” for their contribution to local economies. These countries tend to have a higher percentage of the population participating in fisheries-related activities and more fish caught per person. In part because it does not require advanced skills or equipment, fishing is an easy way for poor families to supplement other sources of food or income, especially during times of hardship such as after a natural disaster.

Yet despite their importance to poor communities, inland fisheries are often an “invisible” resource, point out the authors. This stems from a number of factors but especially the current lack of information on inland fisheries’ output and economic value. Even households that actively engage in fishing often do not report it as an occupation.

As inland fisheries face growing external pressures from climate change and human population growth, it will be crucial to increase their visibility, say the researchers. Including inland fisheries in international sustainable development agendas, such as the SDGs, provides one way to do this – while at the same time acknowledging these fisheries as a vital tool for bettering humanity.  

Check out a 5-minute presentation from lead author Abigail Lynch to learn more about inland fisheries and their role in poverty reduction. The researchers have also created a story map that shares case studies highlighting the importance of inland fisheries around the world.

The full paper, “Inland fisheries – invisible but integral to the UN Sustainable Development Agenda for ending poverty by 2030,” is available online in Global Environmental Change. The paper is freely available for download until December 29, 2017 at the following link.

Photo: Fish displayed at a market in Vientiane, Laos (Credit: Abigail Lynch, USGS)