Making freshwater fish competitive as the world changes

Making freshwater fish competitive as the world changes

Inland fishing – the powerful yet quieter sister to the large, salty marine aquaculture powerhouse – is gaining what experts say is a much-needed visibility boost. At the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, members of University Distinguished Professor Bill Taylor's group are looking at how fish habitat and fish production are directly linked to human systems locally and globally. From the Great Lakes to the Nile River, they’re studying global change issues such as climate, evaluation of governance, policies on the impact of fish community dynamics and sustainability.

"Fish always have been representative of how well humans are doing with their environment," Taylor said. "It's time for us to make a move and speak for the fish to have them valued along with power, commercial, agriculture and other competition for water."

Freshwater fish provide the food, sport and economic power across the globe. Inland fishing is often a study in the power of the many, more about the line and the net, about individuals, families and small cooperatives. More than 60 million people in low-income nations are estimated to rely on inland fisheries for their livelihood.

troutChanges in landscape in turn change water quality in river systems. Rain snags pollution from the atmosphere and drops it in fish habitats. Dammed river systems can wreak enormous change upon banks, levees and fish production. Fish end up on plates not only in their own form, but as a diet for beef and chicken, they end up as dinner through many paths.

MSU takes the global stage

A partnership between MSU and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) aims to identify opportunities and help develop strategy to bring freshwater fish to the global policy table.

In January 2015, Taylor helped MSU partner with the FAO in Rome for the The Global Conference on Inland Fisheries. That meeting brought  212 people from 45 countries to discuss ways to make fish a competitive part of global development.

In April 2015, MSU joined the FAO to host a panel discussion at the 7th World Water Forum in South Korea.

The panel, "Life, the Universe, Fish and Chips and Everything: A Cross Sectoral Approach to Food Security," highlighted the complete range of services freshwater ecosystems offer in terms of food security and livelihoods.

Fish are explicitly mentioned because most discussions of water and food focus on irrigation and "crop per drop," and omit the fact that freshwater fisheries are providing food security to millions of people in rural and developing areas throughout the world.

The discussions sought win/win situations where with proper planning and management, freshwater ecosystems can deliver a range of services including crops, livestock, energy and fish. 

Bill Taylor, Steve Hanson, dean of International Studies and Programs, and master's student So-Jung Youn attended.