Global per capita fish consumption has risen to above 20 kilograms a year for the first time, due to stronger aquaculture supply, increased demand, record hauls for some key species, and reduced waste, according to the latest State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The report cites notable progress in some areas but describes the state of the world’s marine resources as not improved. Nearly a third of commercial fish stocks are now fished at biologically unsustainable levels, according to the report.
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.
There were around 4.6 million fishing vessels in the world in 2014, 90 percent of which are in Asia and Africa, and only 64,000 of which were 24 meters or longer, according to SOFIA.
Globally, fish provided 6.7 percent of all protein consumed by humans, as well as offering a rich source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, calcium, zinc and iron. Some 57 million people were engaged in the primary fish production sectors, a third of them in aquaculture.
Preliminary estimates suggest per capita intakes higher than 20 kilograms 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. About half of the world’s aquaculture production of animals came from non-fed species.
While China remains far the leading nation for aquaculture, it is expanding even faster elsewhere, the report notes.
Nigerian 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.
Some 31.4 percent of the commercial wild fish stocks regularly monitored by FAO were overfished in 2013, a level that has been stable since 2007.
FAO’s methodology is consistent with international agreements stating that fish stocks should be maintained at or rebuilt to a size that can support Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).
Thus, stocks are classified as being fished at biologically unsustainable levels – overfished – when they have an abundance lower than the level that can produce the Maximum Sustainable Yield.
The report described the situation in the Mediterranean and Black Sea – where 59% of assessed stocks are fished at biologically unsustainable levels – as “alarming”. This is especially true for larger fish such as hake, mullet, sole, and sea breams.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, concerns include the possible expansion of invasive fish species, possibly related to climate change.
FAO continues to work with all countries to improve the quality and reliability of annual landing figures. The doubling since 1996 of the number of species in the FAO data base – now 2,033 – indicates overall quality improvements in the data collected, according to the report.
Supply-chain and other improvements have also raised the share of world fish production utilized for direct human consumption to 87 percent or 146 million tonnes in 2016, up from 85 percent or 136 million tonnes in 2014, according to the report.
source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations