As prices leap, strict rules needed to stop overfishing

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Fresh fish is displayed for sale on ice in a fishmongers shop in London, Britain, October 30, 2018. REUTERS/Russell Boyce

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LISBON, June 29 (Reuters) - Stricter rules are essential to protecting fish species as soaring prices add to the pressure for overfishing and other practices that damage the environment, a senior Food and Agriculture Organisation official said on Wednesday.

The price of fish had already risen 25% in the first four months of the year, Manuel Barange, director of FAO's fisheries and aquaculture division, told reporters at the U.N. Ocean Conference in Lisbon. He said the FAO estimates about 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy meal.

"Prices are increasing and that puts pressure on all consumers all over the world," Barange said. "We are very concerned about this."

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He said the body's central message was that responsible, managed fishing policies made a difference and prevented resources being over-exploited when prices rise.

With financial pressure most acute in poorer nations as the war in Ukraine adds to energy and food inflation, the World Wildlife Fund on Tuesday told Reuters there was a mounting risk of overfishing. read more

The FAO says around 35% of fisheries are overfished compared to 10% in 1974.

Potentially adding to the incentives to overfish, fish prices are expected to increase by a further 33% by 2030, as demand is high and supplies are under strain.

Barange said that in wealthier countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, strict policies ensured most fish was caught in a sustainable manner.

In a report published on Wednesday, the FAO said the regions with the least developed fisheries management had higher harvest rates and lower abundance.

"This highlights the urgent need to replicate and re-adapt successful policies and regulations in fisheries that are not managed sustainably," it added.

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Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Barbara Lewis

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