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Aquaculture behind record fish production, consumption

Aquaculture’s crucial role in feeding the world’s growing population is underscored yet again in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) biennial report, “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture.”

Global fish production peaked at about 171 million tonnes in 2016, of which aquaculture accounts for 53 percent (excludes non-food uses) or 80 million tonnes, with first-sale value of $231.6 billion.

With 5.8 percent annual growth rate since 2010, aquaculture continues to grow faster than other major food production sectors. In 2016, aquaculture production increased by 4 million tonnes over the previous year.

In contrast, capture fisheries production was at 90.91 million tonnes, relatively unchanged since the late 1980s. This shows aquaculture has been responsible for the continuing impressive growth in the supply of fish for human consumption, says the report.

Fish consumption is also at an all-time high at 20.3 kg per capita in 2016 versus just under 10 kg per capita in the 1960s. The report attributes this too to increased production via aquaculture.

By 2030 the world will eat 20 percent more fish (or 30 million tonnes live equivalent) than in 2016. Aquaculture production that year is projected to reach 109 million tonnes, a growth of 37 percent over 2016.

The projected increase in global fish consumption raises concerns over sustainability of fish farming and fisheries, however. The United Nations warns future growth will require continued progress in making aquaculture and fisheries more sustainable. For instance, the sectors can improve efforts in reducing the amount of fish being discarded at sea or thrown out post-capture by using discards and trimmings to produce fishmeal, it said.