Global per capita fish consumption has risen to above 20 kilograms a year for the first time, thanks to stronger aquaculture supply and firm demand, record hauls for some key species and reduced wastage, according to the new FAO State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report published last week.
Yet despite notable progress in some areas, the state of the world\'s marine resources has not improved. According to the report, almost a third of commercial fish stocks are now fished at biologically unsustainable levels, triple the level of 1974.
Global total capture fishery production in 2014 was 93.4 million tonnes, including output from inland waters, up slightly over the previous two years. Alaska pollock was the top species, replacing anchoveta for the first time since 1998 and offering evidence that effective resource management practices have worked well. Record catches for four highly valuable groups - tunas, lobsters, shrimps and cephalopods - were reported in 2014
However, the reason why the global supply of fish for human consumption has outpaced population growth in the past five decades - preliminary estimates suggest per capita intakes higher than 20 kilograms, double the level of the 1960s - is due in large measure to growth in aquaculture.
The sector\'s global production rose to 73.8 million tonnes in 2014, a third of which comprised molluscs, crustaceans and other non-fish animals. Importantly in terms of both food security and environmental sustainability, about half of the world\'s aquaculture production of animals - often shellfish and carp - and plants - including seaweeds and microalgae - came from non-fed species.
While China remains far the leading nation for aquaculture, it is expanding even faster elsewhere, the report notes. In Nigeria, aquaculture output is up almost 20-fold over the past two decades, and all of sub-Saharan Africa is not far behind. Chile and Indonesia have also posted remarkable growth, as have Norway and Vietnam - now the world\'s No. 2 and No. 3 fish exporters.
Aquaculture\'s strengths and challenges are also influencing what fish end up on our plates. The report shows that, measured as a share of world trade in value terms, salmon and trout are now the largest single commodity, an honor that for decades belonged to shrimp.
The report also shows that the growing fish-processing sector offers opportunities to improve the sustainability of the fish supply chain, as a host of byproducts have multiple potential and actual uses, ranging from fishmeal for aquaculture, through collagen for the cosmetics industry to small fish bones humans can eat as snacks.