Half of fish consumed worldwide farmed, not caught Published: 04 September, 2006
NEARLY half the fish consumed as food worldwide are raised on fish farms rather than caught in the wild, says a new report from FAO.
“The State of World Aquaculture 2006” was presented today to delegates from 50+ countries attending the biennial meeting of the FAO Sub-Committee on Aquaculture (Hotel Ashok, New Delhi, 4-8 September).
While in 1980 just 9 percent of the fish consumed by human beings came from aquaculture, today 43 percent does, the report shows.
That’s 45.5 million tonnes of farmed fish, worth US$63 billion, eaten each year. Currently, freshwater and marine capture fisheries produce 95 million tonnes annually, of which 60 million tonnes is destined for human consumption.
Globally, consumer demand for fish continues to climb, especially in
affluent, developed nations which in 2004 imported 33 million tonnes of fish worth over US$61 billion – 81% of all fish imports that year, in value terms.
But levels of captures of fish in the wild have remained roughly stable since the mid-1980s, hovering around 90-93 million tonnes annually.
There is little chance of any significant increases in catches beyond these levels, FAO says.
The agency’s most recent global assessment of wild fish stocks found that out of the nearly 600 species groups it monitors, 52 percent are fully exploited while 25 percent are either overexploited (17%), depleted (7%) or recovering from depletion (1%). Twenty percent are moderately exploited, with just three percent ranked as underexploited.
“Catches in the wild are still high, but they have levelled off, probably for good,” explains Rohana Subasinghe of FAO’s Fisheries Department and Secretary of the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture.
This levelling off, coupled with a growing world population and increasing per capita demand for fish, spells trouble.
FAO’s report estimates that an additional 40 million tonnes of aquatic food will be required by 2030 – just to maintain current levels of consumption.
The only option for meeting future demand for fish, Subasinghe argues, is by farming them.
There’s just one question. Can aquaculture actually deliver?
The jury is still out, according to FAO’s report.
“Aquaculture could cover the gap between supply and demand, but there are also many forces which could pull production in the opposite direction, making it difficult for the industry to grow substantially enough to meet demand in the decades to come,” it notes.
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