Fish farming may struggle to keep up with global demand, UN report finds

Cultivating seaweed in Zanzibar

6 October 2008 – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today expressed concerns that the aquaculture industry may struggle to meet future world demand for fish as a rising global population consumes more and more fish and small farmers in poor countries face difficulties in exporting their produce.

The aquaculture sector – otherwise known as fish farming – will need to produce 80.5 million tons per year just to maintain current per capita fish consumption, according to a press release issued by FAO today.

In 2006, the sector produced 51.7 million tons, or nearly half of the estimated 100 million fish consumed worldwide.

The need for more fish from aquaculture has been heightened, the agency noted, because so-called traditional capture fisheries from the world’s seas, lakes and rivers have reached a plateau in terms of production.

“The question remains whether the aquaculture sector can grow fast enough to sustain projected demand for fish while ensuring consumer protection, maintain environmental integrity, and achieving social responsibility,” a report to be released this week by FAO states.

In addition, the rapid growth of the aquaculture sector is suggested to be slowing, with previous yearly growth rates of over 10 per cent from 1985 to 1995 declining to 7 per cent in the following decade.

FAO has noted a series of issues facing the future of fish farming in a report that will be presented to countries attending a meeting of its aquaculture sub-committee this week in Puerto Varas, Chile.

Other challenges that will be explored in FAO’s report include the environmental impacts of fish farming, food safety and antibiotic use and the impact which climate change may have on aquaculture.

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