According to a report published by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, aquaculture is the world’s fastest-growing source of animal protein and currently provides nearly half of all fish consumed globally. The report—“World Aquaculture 2010”—found that global production of fish from aquaculture grew more than 60% between 2000–2008, from 32.4 million tons to 52.5 million tons. In addition, the report forecasts that by 2012 more than 50% of the world’s food fish consumption will come from aquaculture.
“With stagnating global capture fishery production and an increasing population, aquaculture is perceived as having the greatest potential to produce more fish in the future to meet the growing demand for safe and quality aquatic food,” the report said.
One benefit of aquaculture is that it has helped reduce poverty and improve food security in many parts of the world. However, aquaculture has not grown evenly around the planet. Marked differences in production levels, species composition, and farming systems exist within and between regions, and from one country to another. The Asia-Pacific region dominates the sector—in 2008 it accounted for 89.1% of global production, with China alone contributing 62.3%. Of the 15 leading aquaculture-producing countries, 11 are in the Asia-Pacific region.
While the demand for aquaculture products continues to increase, there is growing recognition of the need to address consumers’ concerns for quality and safe products and animal health and welfare, the report said. Thus, issues such as food safety, traceability, certification, and ecolabelling are assuming growing importance and considered as high priorities by many governments.
Aside from environmental sustainability, other major challenges faced by aquaculture include climate change and the global economic downturn, the report noted. The sector should therefore prepare itself to face their potential impacts and make special efforts to further assist small-scale producers by organizing them into associations and through promotion of better management practices.
“Achieving the global aquaculture sector’s long-term goal of economic, social, and environmental sustainability depends primarily on continued commitments by governments to provide and support a good governance framework for the sector,” the report added.