It’s unlikely that the world’s consumption of fish and fish-based products is going to slow down any time soon. In the past decade, the aquaculture sector has expanded significantly, and in 2018, the industry set records for production and consumption. Fisheries and aquaculture have been the area with the greatest growth since the 1990s, but for the trends to continue in this manner, sustainable fisheries management and aquaculture development is essential. While some parts of the world have certainly started to make progress, they are unable to make up for the world’s overfishing problem. Fish stocks are rapidly deteriorating where fishing management is not currently in place. The failure to put in place more stringent measures threatens to impact the industry in the future and the livelihoods of individuals around the world. Today we analyze the state of world fisheries and aquaculture.
Capture Fisheries Production
Looking in detail the state of world fisheries and aquaculture, in 2018, global capture fisheries production reached its highest level of 96.4 million tons, an increase of more than 5 percent from the average of the past three years. The reason behind this increase was primarily marine capture fisheries. Around the world today, the top capture producers are China, Indonesia, Peru, India, the US, Russia, and Vietnam. Just between this group of countries, they account for the majority of the total global capture production. As far as the species that are caught, anchoveta is the number one catch in the world, with over 7 million tonnes in 2018. Alaska pollock comes in second place, and the third most popular catch is skipjack tuna.
Aquaculture is a term that’s used to refer to the farming of any type of aquatic animal. This includes finfish, mollusks, and crustaceans but could also include algae. In 2018, 114.5 million tonnes of aquaculture production was recorded, with the total farmgate sale value coming in at $236.6 billion USD. Breaking down this production further, 82.1 million tonnes of aquatic animals were produced, 32.4 million tonnes of aquatic algae, and 26,000 tonnes of pearls and seashells. On top of that, inland aquaculture produced 51.3 million tonnes, which includes natural water sources like lakes and fish farms. Asia dominates the world aquaculture production within the past two decades, but it’s also popular in Norway, Chile, and Egypt.
The fishing industry is a major employer around the world. It’s believed that the industry employed 59.5 million people in 2018, with 20.5 million in aquaculture and 39 million people working in fisheries. Asia sees the highest number of fishers, accounting for 85% of the world’s employment in this industry. The gender split is quite significant in this industry, with women making up just 14% of these statistics. However, this is often reported incorrectly, with some statistics suggesting that one in two workers is female. Women are often assigned unstable job positions and are often unpaid or poorly paid for their work. They are often underrecognized for their skills and qualifications in this industry, which is why it’s such a critical area of interest.
The World’s Fishing Fleet
It was estimated in 2018 that the number of fishing vessels worldwide was around 4.6 million. This indicates a small decrease of about 2.8 percent since 2016. Asia accounts for 68 percent of the global total, with a fleet of 3.1 million vessels. The number of motorized vehicles has remained the same, coming in at about 63 percent.
Sustainability of Fishery Resources
Sadly the amount of fish stocks that are considered to be biologically sustainable has decreased dramatically in the past few decades. In 1974 it was measured at 90%, whereas this decreased to 65.8% in 2017. In better news, in 2017, the underfished stocks only accounted for 6.2%, and the maximally sustainably fished stocks were 59.6% of the total stocks. Due to the improved implementation of management measures, this increase has been experienced. However, the uneven levels of this progress work to highlight the need to replicate policies and measures that have been successful in certain parts of the world.
How Fish is Used
88% of fish production in 2018 was used for direct human consumption, with just 12% remaining for non-food purposes. Live, fresh, and chilled fish account for the majority of human consumption. Fish meal and fish oil production are declining, although they are considered the most digestible ingredients and more nutritious. A large percentage of aquaculture production is wasted each year, coming in at 35% of the harvest globally. This can be improved only if the sustainability of the sector is improved, as well as working to offer increased access to markets.
We all know that fish is crucial for many people to enjoy as part of a balanced diet. It’s used as a source of protein for 3.3 billion people. On top of that, it offers long-chain omega-3 fat, which is important for our brain development. Seafood is the only natural source of iodine, which also helps with neurodevelopment and thyroid function. Fish also offers vitamin D, which regulates the immune system. Per capita consumption continues to increase year after year, from 9 kg in 1961 to 20.3 kg in 2017.
The state of world fisheries and aquaculture: fish trade
Fish is one of the most traded products around the world, with 67 million tonnes in 2017. The export value was $164 billion USD, which accounts for 38% of the fish caught or farmed worldwide. Fish and fish products are among the most traded food products in the world. So it’s no surprise that 67 million tons of fish (live weight equivalent) were traded internationally in 2018, with a total export value of $164 billion. This represents nearly 38 percent of all fish caught or farmed worldwide. China has been the biggest exporter in the world since 2002, but Norway has come in second place since 2004.
Forecasts for the future
Looking ahead, it’s believed both trade and consumption will increase. However, growth rates should slow down over time. It’s expected that by 2030, total fish production will expand to 204 million tonnes. Asia is predicted to dominate the sector still. But Africa will increase its production in upcoming years due to recent measures put in place in this area. With more sustainability measures, we can continue to promote proper fishing and aquaculture practices and secure this important food source for many years to come.