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Aquaculture continues as fastest-growing animal food producing sector says new SOFIA report

For the first time, half of all fish consumed is farmed according to the latest edition of FAO's The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report released today

March 2, 2009

Aquaculture continues as fastest-growing animal food producing sector says new SOFIA report

For the first time, half of all fish consumed is farmed according to the latest edition of FAO's The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report released today. Future growth will have to come from aquaculture, the report says but stresses development should be made with a view to diminishing reliance on wild stocks. This is an opportunity to move from capture-based to hatchery-based practices and to enhance selective breeding methods. Constraints, particularly dependence on broodstock, seed and feeds, must be reduced so that the industry can benefit from gains similar to those long enjoyed by the livestock industry, especially those of selective breeding.

Total world fisheries production reached a new high of 143.6 million tonnes in 2006, 92 million tonnes from capture fisheries and  51.7 million tonnes from aquaculture. Of that, 110.4 million tonnes was used for human consumption, with the remainder for animal and aqua feeds. Production in capture fisheries has levelled off and is not likely to increase beyond current levels.

The SOFIA report paints a clear picture of the importance of fishing and aquaculture in the developing world  and also discusses the need for the fishing industry and national fisheries authorities to do more to understand and prepare for the impacts that climate change will have on world fisheries. The report notes that fisheries and aquaculture make a minor but significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions during fishing operations and transport, processing and storage of fish.

The report's encouragement of aquaculture production has already provoked a fierce backlash from the environmental community.  “We've totally trashed our wild fish populations so now we need to farm them. It just doesn't make sense to catch fish to feed to fish — you lose four to five times the weight and that's without all the problems of infestations, escapes and pollution from the farms,” Willie MacKenzie, oceans' campaigner for Greenpeace is widely quoted in the British press.

Download the SOFIA report in full (PDF)

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