Ethical concerns relate to societal perceptions of what is good or bad and therefore to the question what are our duties and obligations. The way in which ethical issues are dealt with in fisheries and aquaculture will significantly influence the scope and approaches used in fisheries and by fishers and by the broader society in relation to fisheries resources.
While perceptions of what should constitute ethical behaviour in relation to fisheries differ from one society to the next, the value systems of different societies are gradually converging as a result of the globalization of public awareness of natural resource problems and the values relating to them, of impacts, technologies and knowledge. This development is prompted by the prominence of global issues such as excessive pressure on fishery resources, the degradation of aquatic environments, the concentration of economic power, the increasing role of the market and vastly expanded trade in fish and fish products, the industrialization of fisheries and aquaculture, and the potential use of new biotechnologies in fisheries and aquaculture.
This emerging common ground of ethical principles finds expression, for example, in an ethical framework recently proposed by the FAO Sub-Committee on Ethics in Food and Agriculture. It includes principles for improving human well-being through, for example, the alleviation of hunger, equity considerations and the need for food security. It also includes the protection of the environment through, inter alia, adoption of a precautionary approach as part of a strategy to ensure sustainability, and improved public health.
The ultimate objective of developing an ethical framework for fisheries and aquaculture is to ensure that those who engage in these activities will contribute to tackling the issues of hunger, malnutrition, diet and food safety, so that the world more rapidly reaches a point at which everyone has access to an abundant, nutritionally adequate and safe diet.