Reflected on the Neglected: Identifying the Social, Economic, and Ecological Importance of Inland Fish and Fisheries

Reflected on the Neglected: Identifying the Social, Economic, and Ecological Importance of Inland Fish and Fisheries

Abigail J. Lynch, T. Douglas Beard, Shannon Bower, David B. Bunnell, Steven J. Cooke, Ian G. Cowx, Andrew Deines, Vivian M. Nguyen, Joel Nohner, Kaviphone Phouthavong, Mark Rogers, William W. Taylor, Whitney Woelmer, & So-Jung Youn

Inland fisheries serve as a major source of protein, essential fats, and micronutrients for hundreds of millions of people, particularly in rural households. More than 60 million people in low income countries rely upon inland fisheries as a source of livelihoods and women represent over half the individuals in inland fisheries supply chains. Freshwater ecosystems also provide valuable non-fishing related services including hydropower, drinking water, irrigation for agriculture, and maintaining hotspots of biodiversity. Many of these ecosystem services impact the distribution and productivity of local fisheries. Despite their importance, inland fisheries generally remain economically and socially under-valued and biologically underappreciated because accurate information about these small-scale, highly dispersed fisheries is, inherently, difficult to acquire. Consequently, inland fisheries are often given low priority in policy discussions relative to other uses of water. In this synthesis, we summarize hierarchical discussions among co-authors into a short list of why inland fish and fisheries are important and provide a conceptual model of how these issues are related. We hope this list and conceptual model can help demonstrate the value of inland fish and fisheries to decision makers. Our goal in this exercise is to raise the profile of inland fish and fisheries to better incorporate them in agricultural, land-use, and water resource planning.

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