In most countries wild species and uncultivated ecosystems are an important resource. Harvests need to be regulated if they are to be sustainable. Local needs should have priority over external commercial and recreational uses.
Management of wild resources for sustainable use requires:
- an ability to assess stocks and productive capabilities of exploited populations and ecosystems, and keep use within those capacities;
- establishment of harvest levels that allow for ignorance and uncertainty about the biology of harvested species, the condition of the ecosystems on which they depend, and other uses of (and impacts on) the species and ecosystems;
- ensuring that where many species are harvested at once (as in some fisheries) harvest rates are sustainable for the species most vulnerable to overexploitation;
- conservation of the habitats and ecological processes supporting the resource;
- ensuring that harvest of a resource does not exceed its capacity to sustain exploitation.
This can be done by regulating access (for example, by limiting the number and size of fishing boats and the duration of the “open season”) or by catch quotas (rights to catch a specific quantity of fish, the sum of individual quotas being no more that the sustainable yield of the stock);
In assessing whether use is sustainable, governments need to take four sets of factors into account:
- the status of the resource itself;
- the status of the ecological processes and bilogical diversity that support the resource;
- the impacts of the harvesting and processing on other renewable resources, human health, life-support systems, and bilogical diversity;
- the main socioeconomic influences on the sustainability of the resource sector concerned.
Many of these factors may not be known today, and it is important that research and monitoring, as an aid to sound management, are given due priority by governments and supported by international aid agencies. Emphasis should be on species that are important economically, play a central role in ecosystems, or are severely depleted. Social and economic influences on resource use can generally be evaluated as part of a national or subnational strategy for sustainability.
(Sources: Caring for the Earth, 1991)
- Homegrown Harvest: A Season-by-Season Guide to a Sustainable Kitchen Garden
- Ecoagriculture: Strategies to Feed the World and Save Wild Biodiversity
- Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture, Revised and Expanded
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