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Context - Fisheries and aquaculture are receiving increasing attention, not only because they
represent an important source of livelihoods and food, but also because of our
increasing understanding of aquatic ecosystems.
Many fish stocks are currently overexploited, and the international nature of the
resources makes them difficult to manage. Is the current food supply in danger?
This Digest is a faithful summary of the “World review of fisheries and aquaculture” section of the leading scientific consensus report produced in 2009 by the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO): "The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2008" Learn more...
- Source document:FAO (2009)
- Summary & Details: GreenFacts
1. What is the overall fishery production?
In 2006 the global production
from fishing and aquaculture
combined reached approximately 144 million
tonnes, of which 110 million were
for human consumption.
Capture fisheries have remained at
the same level for the last few years, but aquaculture has been
In 2006, 92 million tonnes of
fishery products (which includes fish, crustaceans, and molluscs) were caught by
fishers around the globe. China and Peru continue to lead the top ten of
countries with the largest catches.
Oceans and seas provide close to 90% of the world’s catches. These
catches have remained relatively stable since the mid-nineties (between
80 and 86 million tonnes) and
reached a relative low in 2006. The most caught
species is the
anchoveta in the Southeast Pacific.
The share of catches from the open ocean, the international waters
outside of the fishing zones under the jurisdiction of coastal
countries, has increased in recent decades and reached about 13% of all
marine catches in 2006. Close to a third of these catches were
deep-water species. More and more
efforts are being made to know more about catches made in international
waters and to better regulate them.
In 2006, catches from
inland waters exceeded 10 million
tonnes for the first time, which
represented 7% of the total
fishery production. Developing
countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, accounted for most of the
world’s inland water fishing.
Statistics of inland catches remain, however, unreliable and
Aquaculture has grown
tremendously over the last few decades. This sector alone now accounts
for about a third of the world’s supply of fish products (and about half
of its food fish supply) compared to only 4% in 1970. China is by far
the largest producer.
2. What is the situation of fishers, fish farmers and the fishing fleet?
Purse seiner, France
Fishery and aquaculture
production provide direct
employment and revenue to an estimated 43.5 million people; mainly
fishers but also increasingly fish farmers. Detailed statistics are
often not readily available, especially for small-scale fishing
activities in developing countries. The general
trend is that the number of jobs for
fishers is stagnating and that opportunities in aquaculture have been
About 2 million motorised fishing boats are operating worldwide. Small
boats less than 12 meter long dominate everywhere, particularly in
Africa, Asia and the Near East. A very large share of the total fishing
fleet is concentrated in Asia. Many countries have adopted policies to
limit the growth of their fishing capacity in order to protect aquatic
resources and make fishing economically viable. In recent years, a
growing number of fishing vessels have signed out of national
registries, and are listed as having an “unknown” flag. These vessels may be involved in illegal, unrecorded and unregulated fishing, despite global efforts to eliminate these activities.
3. What is the state of fishery resources?
A bit more than half of all monitored
fish stocks are now fully
exploited, producing catches close to their maximum
sustainable limits with no room for
further expansion. Over a quarter are overexploited, depleted, or slowly
recovering. The remaining fish stocks are underexploited or moderately
The large number of stocks that
are either fully or over-exploited indicate that the maximum potential
for the world’s marine
capture fisheries has been reached
and that management measures are needed to reduce exploitation. In
particular, more attention has to be given to highly migratory
species, to stocks that are shared
between two or more administrative regions, and to stocks in the open
Despite the social and economic importance of
fisheries, attempts at
sustainable management have been
unsuccessful in many parts of the world and a global response is
urgently needed. An ecosystem
approach to fisheries is called for, protecting and conserving
ecosystems while providing food,
income, and livelihoods from fisheries in a sustainable manner. A
combination of measures has been proposed within this framework,
including banning some fishing practices, setting up marine protected
areas, and constraining access rights.
The products of inland fisheries
provide an essential part of the diet of many people around the globe,
especially in developing countries. Human impacts on
ecosystems – in the form of
invasive alien species, pollution,
habitat fragmentation and changes
in the flood cycle – reduce the ability of
fish stocks to recover from fishing
pressure. Fishery management should
take these threats into account in order to safeguard and enhance
existing inland fisheries that provide food security for millions of
4. How are fishery products used?
More than three-quarters of the world’s fish
production is consumed by humans.
Most of the remaining portion is fed to animals, particularly in the
form of fishmeal.
Half of the fish is consumed fresh by humans while the other half
undergoes some processing. When fish is processed, it is often frozen,
but it can also be canned, cured,
dried, salted, smoked, etc.
In developed countries, priority is given to convenience and variety,
and most of the fish for human consumption is processed. In developing
countries, fish is mostly consumed fresh and processing focuses on less
sophisticated methods like salting or drying. However, fish processing
is increasing in many developing countries to meet the demands of
domestic markets or the requirements of exportations.
Fish also plays an important role in the
production of animal feeds, and in
the production of compounds for the
5. What is the amount of traded fishery products?
Fifty-four million tonnes of fish
and other fishery products were
traded on international markets in 2006 for US $85.9 billion. The value
of traded goods continued to rise in 2007 along with the global increase
in prices, but demand seems to have weakened in 2008 as the financial
crisis was starting to take hold. Since 2002, China is the world’s
largest exporter of fish and fishery products, a position strengthened
both by China’s growing
fishery production and expanding
processing industry. The largest importers, by far, are Japan and the
United States of America.
Developing countries play a major role in the
fishery industry. They account for
more than three quarters of the world’s
fishery production and for almost
half of the world’s exports. A large part of exports from developing
countries is aimed at developed countries that have a growing demand but
tend to have stagnant domestic fishery productions. Several developing
countries import raw materials and re-export processed fish products.
fishery products of high value on
world markets include shrimp, salmon,
octopus, as well as
fish oil. However, relatively
low-value species traded in large quantities, such as tilapia from
aquaculture, have also gained
increasing importance on world markets.
Because fish is highly perishable, more than 90% of internationally
traded fish is in processed form. However, improvements in technology
and logistics have allowed an increase in the trade of live fish.
6. How much fish is consumed worldwide?
Fish consumption has undergone major changes in the past four decades.
Overall, consumption per person per year has been increasing steadily,
from an average 9.9 kg in the 1960s to 16.4 kg in 2005. In the last
years, China has accounted for most of the global growth in fish
consumption, and the Chinese per capita fish supply was about 26.1 kg in
2005. Fish and seafood consumption varies greatly between different regions of the world, with local averages ranging from 1 kg to more than 100 kg per person per year.
The global increase in fish consumption reflects
trends in food consumption in
general, with per capita food consumption rising in the last few
decades. Still, people in many countries continue to face food shortages
and nutrient inadequacies, and
major inequalities exist in access to food. Fish contributes to food
security in many regions of the world, providing a valuable supplement
for diversified and nutritious diets. Many
populations depend on it as part of
their daily diets.
production is playing an increasing
role in meeting the demand for fish and other
fishery products. In 2006, it
supplied nearly half of all fishery products for human consumption.
Further growth in the availability of fish for human consumption is
expected to come mainly from aquaculture.
The current trends in fish
consumption are expected to continue for the foreseeable future. In
developing countries, a shift in diets towards more animal products will
increase demand and, in industrialized countries, issues such as food
safety and quality, environmental concerns, and animal welfare will
probably be more important than price and income changes.
7. How are fisheries regulated?
Long-Term productivity of fisheries needs to be ensured
Source & ©: Jan Willem Geertsma
The world’s oceans support economic activities on a vast scale, and
their fishery resources need to be
rehabilitated and protected to ensure their long-term productivity.
Sound fishery governance and the capacity to implement management
measures are necessary in both developing and developed
Regional fisheries management
organizations (RFMOs), are responsible for managing
fish stocks on the high seas and
fish stocks which migrate through
the waters of more than just a single state in a given region. Their
effectiveness is still impaired by an apparent inability or reluctance
of Member States to take practical management decisions and implement
them in a timely manner.
Combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as well as
related activities is a major global objective. It constitutes a threat
to fish stocks and marine
habitats, but also to food security
and the economies of developing countries.
Other pressing policy issues currently being discussed internationally
include the management of deep-sea
fisheries in the high seas, highly
migratory species and
fish stocks distributed in waters
of more than one State, as well as the problem of unwanted species
accidentally caught or “bycatch”.
Governments are increasingly playing a proactive role in
aquaculture development. Many
countries, both developed and developing, have enacted – or are in the
process of drafting – national aquaculture regulations that govern the
licensing, monitoring and control of aquaculture.
New rules governing the use of subsidies in the
fishery sector are being negotiated
in the World Trade Organization. A broad ban on subsidies that
contribute to overfishing and an overcapacity of the fishing fleet has
been proposed. A number of trade agreements entered into force over the
last few years, but their full impact remains to be seen.
8. Conclusion (only in level 1)
Source & ©: Biju Joshi
The State of World Fisheries and
Aquaculture 2008 concludes that
developments in world fisheries and aquaculture during recent years have
continued to follow the trends that
were already becoming apparent at the end of the 1990s: capture
fisheries production is stagnating
and aquaculture output is expanding faster than any other animal-based
There are growing concerns with regard to safeguarding the livelihoods
of fishers as well as the
sustainability of both commercial
catches and the aquatic ecosystem
from which they are extracted.
About three quarters of monitored marine
stocks are now fully exploited,
overexploited, or even depleted. Therefore, there seems to be no further
potential for increasing marine catches and the current state of
fishery resources and their
ecosystems allows little room for
delay in actions for better management of fish stocks that should have been taken in the last three