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Fish processing plant. (Photo: FAO/FIIU)

Fish consumption reaches record high as industry continues to grow

Tuesday, February 01, 2011, 22:10 (GMT + 9)

A recent report disclosed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has unveiled that global consumption of fish has reached an all-time record high.

According to the State of the World's Fisheries and Aquaculture, on average, the world-wide contribution of fish to peoples diets has reached a record of around 17 kg per person. Additionally, this has provided over 3 billion people with at least 15 per cent of their average animal protein intake.

Fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of an estimated 540 million people. (Photo: FAO/Roberto Faidutti)

The report also states that the fisheries and aquaculture sectors are the main source of income for an estimated 540 million people, which is eight per cent of the world population.

The above conclusively demonstrates that people are eating more fish than ever, resulting in a record number of people being either employed in or dependent on the sector.

Furthermore, the FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Department indicated that the total production of fish and fish products globally rose from 140 million tonnes in 2007, to 145 million tonnes in 2009.

Fish products have also remained as the most-traded of food commodities, as they were worth a record USD 102 billion in 2008, up 9 per cent from 2007.

According to the FAO, this increase is due mainly to the growth experienced by the aquaculture sector, which is expanding at a rate of just under 7 per cent a year.

The organization is confident that due to this, aquaculture is certain to overtake capture fisheries as the main source of fish for human consumption.

In particular, the report awarded sincere praise to aquaculture policies in Southeast Asia, as they believe that they have demonstrated the benefits of balanced management.

The increasing demand for fish highlights the need for the sustainable management of aquatic resources. (Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano)

They singled out unremittingly improving government interventions, which are based on “comparative advantages and economic incentives that lead to growth, food security and better living standards.”

The report also contains a special chapter on inland fisheries, as they perceive inland fisheries to be too often ignored by policymakers, despite inland fisheries supporting 61 million people worldwide.

They speculate that “irrigation and hydroelectric schemes are at times planned without regard for the impact on inland fishers' livelihoods.”

The importance of the sector was highlighted by Richard Grainger, a senior FAO fisheries expert as well as one of the editors of the report, as he states that "fish is a good quality and high protein food and the [aquaculture] sector contributes in an important way to world food security."

The FAO's publication also warns that the increasing demand for fish must be met by the need for the sustainable management of aquatic resources.

They strongly advocate an “ecosystem approach to fisheries, which is an integrated approach for balancing societal objectives with the state of the fishery and its natural and human environment.”

As the report also stressed that the status of global fish stocks has not improved, with the overall percentage of overexploited, depleted or recovering fish stocks in the world's oceans not dropping, in fact, they estimate it to be slightly higher than in 2006.

Research conducted by the organization has uncovered that roughly 32 per cent of the worlds fish stocks are overexploited, depleted or recovering, and that severe urgency is needed to regenerate them.

(Graph: FAO)

“That there has been no improvement in the status of stocks is a matter of great concern, the percentage of overexploitation needs to go down, although at least we seem to be reaching a plateau," continues Grainger.

On the opposite side, the report stated that 15 per cent of stock groups monitored by the FAO were estimated to be underexploited (3 per cent) or moderately exploited (12 per cent), they therefore believe that these fisheries are able to produce more than their current catches suggest.

The report also examines efforts for more resolute control of the fisheries sector, through trade measures for example.

Finally, the FAO discussed the proposed global record of fishing vessels, this would result in each vessel being assigned a unique vessel identifier that would remain constant regardless of ownership or flag changes over time.

They assured that “such transparency would make it easier to police vessels engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities,” an activity which they estimate to cost a staggering USD 10 to 23.5 billion per year.

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, is the FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Department's flagship publication which is issued every two years and provides a comprehensive, objective and global view of capture fisheries and aquaculture. To view the document in full, click here.

By Brian Loubet Jambert
[email protected]


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