Aquaculture only way to fill the coming "fish gap" FAO tells fisheries authorities

Top ministers debate the future of fish farming
November 19, 2007

Aquaculture only way to fill the coming "fish gap" FAO tells fisheries authorities

By 2030 an additional 37 million tonnes of fish per year will be needed to maintain current levels of fish consumption for an expanded world population. Because traditional capture fisheries have reached their maximum production levels, fish farming represents the only way to fill the gap. But it will only do so if it is promoted and managed in a responsible fashion.

This was the message FAO gave to a group of the world's top fisheries authorities* gathered in Rome for a high level meeting on the contribution of aquaculture to sustainable development.

The future of fish is farms
For a quarter century, fish farming has been the world's fastest growing food production sector, sustaining an annual growth rate of 8.8% since 1970. By way of comparison, livestock production, also considered a growth sector, increased at a rate of just 2.8% a year during the same period.

Today, some 45% of all fish consumed by humans -- 48 millions tonnes in all -- is raised on farms.

By 2030, the addition of 2 billion more people to the world population will mean that aquaculture will need to produce nearly double that, 85 million tonnes of fish per year, just to maintain current per capita consumption levels.

Citing these trends, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf told the meeting that further development of the aquaculture sector should be a priority for the international development agenda.

He cautioned however that good policy decisions regarding the use of natural resources like water, land, seed and feed as well as sound environmental management will be necessary to sustain and enhance aquaculture's growth.

Income and jobs from fish farming increasingly important
An FAO paper presented at the meeting noted that not only does aquaculture help reduce hunger and malnutrition by providing food rich in protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, it also significantly improves food security by creating jobs and raising incomes. In Asia, for instance, fish farming directly employs some 12 million people.

In a video-taped message played at today's meeting, Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse underscored the important role that fish farming plays by supporting people's livelihoods in Asia and elsewhere. "For largely rural based societies, aquaculture provides many opportunities for low income earners to diversify their livelihoods to obtain a larger income," he said.

Africa lagging behind
One worrying exception to the aquaculture boom is Africa, the only world region where per capita consumption of fish has dropped and whose share of global aquaculture production is less than one percent. "Africa has the full resource potential for aquaculture growth," FAO's paper said, and should be a "priority region" for aid aimed at promoting aquaculture development.

*The fisheries ministers of Algeria, Angola, Bahamas, Bahrain, Chad, Ecuador, Eritrea, Faroe Islands, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Indonesia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda participated in the event, which was also attended by high-level delegates from a number of other countries. The session was co-chaired by Ms Helga Pedersen, Minister of Fisheries and Coastal affairs of Norway and Mr Amin Ahmed Mohamed Othman Abbaza, Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation of Egypt.

Related documents:

FAO paper presented at today's high level meeting

Text of FAO Director-General Jacque Diouf's comments (.pdf)