Aquaculture Dominates Global Fish Supply, Reports U.N. Food Agency

Aquaculture, or aquafarming, involves breeding marine life like fish, shellfish, mollusks, and marine plants in controlled setups.

In 2022, the FAO reported a record-breaking 130.9 million tonnes of aquaculture produce, with aquatic animals comprising 94.4 million tonnes—making up 51% of the total aquatic produce.

“These figures highlight aquaculture’s ability to help feed the world’s swelling population,” stated FAO assistant director general Manuel Barange.

“For fifty years, it’s been the planet’s fastest-growing food production system,” he emphasized.

Yet, just ten nations—China, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Philippines, South Korea, Norway, Egypt, and Chile— dominate, making up nearly 90% of all aquaculture. The FAO called for expansion, especially in Africa, which currently imports more fish than it produces.

Detractors argue aquafarming can harm the ecosystem, introducing diseases and non-native species into the wild. But, proper oversight and rules can curb these risks, according to the FAO.

Friday’s dossier noted an uptick in global per capita consumption of aquatic animal foods, essential for millions, reaching 20.7 kg in 2022, a rise from 9.1 kg in 1961, with expectations for further increases.

Meanwhile, capture fisheries yields have been stable since the late ’80s, totaling 92.3 million tonnes in 2022.

Recent figures showed 37.7% of marine fish stocks were overfished in 2021, an upward trend since 1974 when only 10% were overfished, per FAO data.

“Sustainability concerns us deeply,” said Barange, though he noted some large commercial fisheries, like tuna, are now nearing 90% sustainability.

“This marks a significant leap forward over the past decade,” he added. He also pointed out that 80% of the top marine species consumed by humans are being sustainably managed.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Edited by Tomasz Janowski)

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