Aquaculture will provide 40% of fish by 2020

Developing countries will shape nearly all growth in the fish industry in the next two decades, while greater reliance on fish farming could force a trade-off between the health of wild fisheries and the environment, and the well being of the poor, says new report
October 2, 2003

Developing countries will shape nearly all growth in the fish industry in the next two decades, while greater reliance on fish farming could force a trade-off between the health of wild fisheries and the environment, and the well being of the poor. These findings come from Outlook for Fish to 2020: Meeting Global Demand, a report released today by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the WorldFish Center. The study forecasts trends in supply and demand for fish and seafood products over the next twenty years and their impact on fisheries.

This groundbreaking report is the first to examine pressing problems of fisheries in terms of rapidly changing global and national market forces.
Using state-of-the-art computer modeling, the researchers project that, in twenty years, developing countries will be responsible for 77 percent of global fish consumption and 79 percent of world production.

"The trends are clear: in 2020, people in developing countries will produce, consume, and trade a greater share of the world's fish. Policymakers in rich and poor countries alike must consider this when developing fisheries policies for the coming decades," said Chris Delgado, lead author of the report. Delgado is also director of the Joint International Livestock Research Institute-IFPRI Program for Livestock Market Opportunities.

The report projects that fish consumption in developing countries will increase by 57 percent, from 62.7 million metric tons in 1997 to 98.6 million in 2020. By comparison, fish consumption in developed countries will increase by only about 4 percent, from 28.1 million metric tons in 1997 to 29.2 million in 2020. Rapid population growth, increasing affluence, and urbanization in developing countries are leading to major changes in supply and demand for animal protein, from both livestock and fish.

To meet this growing demand, fish farming, or aquaculture, an already booming industry, will continue to expand, since most of the world's existing wild fisheries are tapped to capacity or beyond. In fact, the study projects that more than 40 percent of fish eaten by consumers in 2020 will come from fish farms. Aquaculture production is expected to nearly double in the next two decades, climbing from 28.6 million metric tons in 1997 to 53.6
in 2020.

However, expanding aquaculture could also increase pollution and the use of scarce water and land resources, threatening the environment and the poor in developing countries, according to the report.

"Small and large-scale fish farmers need technical and policy assistance to produce top products in an environmentally friendly way," stated Meryl Williams, director general of the WorldFish Center. "But governments can avoid a trade-off if they develop aquaculture policies that are environmentally sustainable and foster technologies that poor fish farmers
can afford. For example, policymakers could support providing small-scale fish farmers with technical assistance so they can comply with food safety and ecological regulations."

Substantial increases in fish farming could actually damage already vulnerable wild fisheries, and growth plans for this sector must also consider these potential effects.

"The fate of aquaculture and the world's wild fisheries are linked through markets and even more directly," noted Joachim von Braun, director general of IFPRI. "On the one hand, fish farming often uses wild fish products such as fishmeal and small fish as feed, and this is already stressing wild fisheries. Often, fish farming and wild fisheries compete for the use of coastal space. On the other hand, increased fish farm production reduces pressure on fish prices and may decrease pressure on wild stocks."

 "With appropriate actions taken and investments made now, we can ensure that we will be able to meet growing global demand for fish over the next two decades," commented Delgado. "If policymakers focus on improving
stewardship of marine and coastal resources, and developing technologies to reduce waste and environmental damage in wild fisheries, we will not only meet demand, but we will do so in a way that is fair to the poor and environmentally sustainable."

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. The WorldFish Center contributes to food security and poverty eradication through research, partnership, capacity building, and policy support on living aquatic resources.  IFPRI and the WorldFish Center are two of 16 Future Harvest Centers and receive their principal funding from 62 governments, private foundations, and international and regional organizations known as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. For more information, please visit the websites at and