Why are wild species important? Many of us will never gather wild plants, burn wood for fuel or fish for a daily meal in our lifetime. We would rarely forage for wild mushrooms, and most of us would not hunt for food, choosing instead to buy animal-based protein at the grocery store.
So why should we support the regulation of the sustainable use of wild species such as plants, animals, fungi and algae around the world?
50,000 wild species are at risk, that’s why.
An accelerating global biodiversity crisis, with a million plant and animal species facing extinction, threatens countless human contributions.
The hidden truth from many Westerners is that billions of people benefit every day from the use of wild species for food, energy, materials, medicine, recreation, inspiration and many other vital aspects of human well-being. One in 5 people rely on non-cultivated strains for income and food. Almost 10,000 wild species are harvested for human food. 2.4 billion (1 in 3) people depend on wood for cooking.
A new report from the Intergovernmental Platform for Science and Policy on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) identifies 5 broad categories of wildlife use practices:
- gathering of terrestrial animals (including hunting); and,
- non-extractive practices.
The report identifies drivers such as:
- land and sea changes;
- climate change;
- pollution; and,
- invasive alien species.
All of these factors can affect the abundance and distribution of wild species and can increase stress and challenges among the human communities that use them. Without effective regulation in supply chains – from local to global – global trade generally increases the pressures on such living species, leading to unsustainable use and sometimes the collapse of wild populations – think of the shark fin trade.
For each practice, the Report examines specific uses such as food and feed; materials; medicine, energy; recreation; ceremony; and learning and decoration. It provides a detailed analysis of the trends in each of them over the past 20 years. In most cases, their use increased, but the sustainability of use varied, such as gathering for medicine and harvesting materials and energy.
Overexploitation is one of the main threats to the survival of many terrestrial and aquatic species in the wild. Addressing the causes of unsustainable use and, wherever possible, reversing these trends will result in better outcomes for nature and the people who depend on it.
Global trade creates opportunities and risks
Global wildlife trade has expanded significantly in volume, value and trade networks over the past 4 decades.
The use of plant and animal biodiversity is an important source of income for millions of people around the world. Wild trees account for two-thirds of global industrial roundwood. The trade in wild plants, algae and mushrooms is a billion dollar industry. Even non-extractive use of natives is big business.
On the other hand, while the trade in unmanaged wildlife provides important income for exporting countries, offers higher incomes for harvesters, and can diversify sources of supply to allow pressure to be shifted away from unsustainably exploited species, it also separates the consumption of wild species from their habitats. origin.
Indigenous peoples manage fishing, gathering, harvesting of terrestrial animals and other uses of wildlife on more than 38 million km2 of land, equivalent to about 40% of terrestrial conservation areas, in 87 countries. The report notes that policies that support secure tenure rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests, as well as poverty reduction, create the conditions for sustainable use of wildlife in areas around the world.
By the numbers: Key statistics and facts from the report
- +/- 50,000: Wild species it is used for food, energy, medicine, materials and other purposes through fishing, gathering, logging and harvesting of terrestrial animals on a global scale.
- At least 34%: species that are sustainably uses – based on an assessment of 10,098 species from 10 taxonomic groups on the IUCN Red List.
- +/-7,500: Wild fish and aquatic invertebrate species directly used by people all over the world; 31,100 species of wild plants, of which 7,400 are trees; 1,500 types of mushrooms; 7,400 species of wild trees; 1,700 species of wild terrestrial invertebrates; and 7,500 species of wild amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
- >10,000: Wild species harvested for human foodmaking the sustainable use of wild species critical to food security and improving nutrition in rural and urban areas worldwide.
+/-70%: from the world is poor directly dependent on wildlife and the jobs they generate.
- 8 billion: Annual visitors protected areas around the world before the COVID-19 pandemic, generated $600 billion a year, with the highest number of tourist visitors in species-rich countries.
- 38 million: Km² of land in 87 countries where indigenous peoples manage fishing, gathering, harvesting of terrestrial animals and other uses of wildlife (coinciding with +/-40% of terrestrial conservation areas, including many of high biodiversity value).
- 15: Number of Sustainable Development Goals for which the sustainable use of wild species has an unrecognized potential to contribute to the achievement of goals.
- >90%: Out of 120 million people who are engaged in fishing globally that are supported by small-scale fishing, about half of them are women.
- 34%: Stocks of marine wild fish that are overfished (with 66% fished within biologically sustainable levels, but this global picture shows strong heterogeneities).
- 90 million: Tons of wild fish has been caught annually for the past few decades, of which about two-thirds goes for human consumption (and the rest as feed for aquaculture and livestock).
- 99%: Officially declared species of sharks and rays accidentally taken as bycatch, but valuable and often kept for food, causing a precipitous decline since the 1970s in shark species, especially in tropical and subtropical coastal waters.
- 449: Species of sharks and rays classified as endangered (37.5% of 1,199 recently assessed species), mainly due to unsustainable fishing.
Policies and tools to promote sustainable use
As part of its analysis, the Report explores the policies and tools that have been used in different contexts. 7 key elements are presented that could be used as levers of change to promote sustainable use of wildlife if scaled across practices, regions and sectors:
- Policy options that are inclusive and participatory;
- Policy options that recognize and support multiple forms of knowledge;
- Policy instruments and tools that ensure fair and equitable distribution of costs and benefits;
- Context-specific policies;
- Practice monitoring;
- Policy instruments that are harmonized at international, national, regional and local levels; maintain coherence and consistency with international obligations and take into account customary rules and norms; and,
- Robust institutions, including mainstream institutions.
Background of the report
The IPBES Sustainable Use of Wildlife Assessment Report is the result of 4 years of work by 85 leading experts in the natural and social sciences and holders of indigenous and local knowledge, as well as 200 contributing authors, drawing on more than 6,200 sources. A summary of the report was approved this week by representatives of the 139 IPBES member states in Bonn, Germany.
The report offers insights, analysis and tools for establishing more sustainable uses to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem functioning while contributing to human well-being.
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