Inland fisheries provide food, income and livelihoods to millions around the world. Furthermore, they play an integral role in maintaining aquatic ecosystem health and biodiversity as well as serving as a water resource for agriculture and land-use activities. Unfortunately, their contributions towards sustainable development are often underestimated or undervalued within global governance frameworks.
This paper summarizes the current state of knowledge on inland fisheries, highlighting key areas for future research. Our goal is to increase recognition and value of inland fisheries within wider water resources management frameworks, ecosystem management programs, and food security frameworks so as to guarantee their sustainability into the future.
We have examined various approaches to assess the status and trends in inland fisheries, and present a synthesis of these results. These include global catch and regional patterns, literature review, as well as findings from an FAO report on global inland fisheries that was released recently.
The current state of knowledge about inland fisheries is fragmented and inconsistent across disciplines. A lack of data inhibits the development of policies and regulations to promote their conservation (Funge-Smith & Bennett, 2018; Bartley et al. 2015).
Irrespective of their lack of recognition in global development discourses and public policy, inland fisheries play a critical role in supporting several Sustainable Development Goals. Particularly, they contribute to No Poverty (SDG 1), Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), Responsible Consumption & Production (SDG 12) and Life on Land (SDG 15).
Although most inland fisheries are small-scale and local in scope, they can also be large-scale commercial operations or entry points into lucrative value chains as part of larger river systems like Lake Victoria Nile perch (Lates niloticus) in Chad (Smith et al. 2005).
Water supply and demand, agricultural practices, pollution from land-based activities, climate change and fishing methods and technology all play a role. For instance in Southeast Asia’s Mekong region, hydropower and navigation have reduced habitat integrity which in turn has hindered various fisheries (Orr et al. 2012). Furthermore, aquaculture’s rapid expansion has resulted in the loss of wild fisheries while relying more on commercially harvested species that may not be culturally, ecologically or nutritionally beneficial to most people.
It is worth noting that inland fisheries provide essential food security and livelihoods to some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations. Inland fishing plays a pivotal role in protecting human wellbeing during times of crisis such as crop failure or war.
Increased appreciation of inland fisheries’ role and significance is essential to maximize their contribution to sustainable development, particularly among some of the world’s most vulnerable people. This paper seeks to identify key research areas and create an inland fisheries assessment framework that will ensure their significance is fully recognized and appreciated.