SOFIA 2016. No all-clear signal for the seas

Despite notable progress in some areas, the state of the world's marine resources has not improved over the last decade. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s new State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report highlights the significance the sector has for food security and income generation and calls for stringent steps to curb overfishing.

Almost a third of commercial fish stocks are fished at biologically unsustainable levels; this is triple the level of 1974, the latest edition of the UN agency's “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture” (SOFIA) says. In the same period, world per capita fish supply reached a new record high of 20 kg in 2014 which is double the level of the 1960s. This is put down to vigorous growth in aquaculture, which now provides half of all fish for human consumption, and to a slight improvement in the state of certain fish stocks due to improved fisheries management.

"Life below water, which the Sustainable Development Agenda commits us to conserve, is a major ally in our effort to meet a host of challenges, from food security to climate change," FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said presenting the report in Rome, Italy, early in July. "This report shows that capture fisheries can be managed sustainably, while also pointing to the enormous and growing potential of aquaculture to boost human nutrition and support livelihoods with productive jobs," da Silva maintained.

Some key findings of the report:

  • Globally, fish provided 6.7 per cent 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.

  • 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. 

  • Fishery products accounted for one per cent of all global merchandise trade in value terms, representing more than nine per cent of total agricultural exports. World-wide exports amounted to 148 billion US dollars (USD) in 2014, up from 8 billion USD in 1976. Developing countries were the source of 80 billion USD of fishery exports, providing higher net trade revenues than meat, tobacco, rice and sugar combined.

  • Aquaculture’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 by far the leading nation for aquaculture, the industry is expanding even faster elsewhere, the report notes. In Nigeria, aquaculture output has risen 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 per cent of the commercial wild fish stocks regularly monitored by FAO were overfished in 2013, a level that had been stable since 2007.

  • Supply-chain and other improvements have raised the share of world fish production utilised for direct human consumption to 87 per cent or 146 million tonnes in 2016, according to the report. That is up from 85 per cent or 136 million tonnes in 2014.

  • The growing fish-processing sector also offers opportunities to improve the sustainability of the fish supply chain, as a host of by-products have multiple potential and actual uses, ranging from fishmeal for aquaculture, through collagen for the cosmetics industry to small fish bones that humans can eat as snacks.


More information: FAO Website

Download report

Rural 21 No 3/2015: Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture

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