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Substantial growth in aquaculture has pushed global fisheries and aquaculture production to an all-time high, making aquatic foods an increasingly critical contribution to food security and nutrition in the 21st century, according to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released today.

The 2022 edition of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) (English) notes that in 2020 the growth of aquaculture, particularly in Asia, caused total fisheries and aquaculture production to reach an all-time high of 214 million tons (178 million tons of aquatic animals and 36 million tons of algae).

Aquatic animal production in 2020 was 30% higher than the 2000s average and more than 60% above the 1990s average. Record aquaculture production of 87.5 million tons of aquatic animals greatly boosted those results.

Due to the constant expansion of the sector, FAO indicates that more specific transformational changes are needed to make the fisheries and aquaculture sector more sustainable, inclusive and equitable. If we want to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, it is essential to carry out a “blue transformation” in the way we produce, manage, market and consume aquatic food.

“The growth of fisheries and aquaculture is vital to our efforts to end global hunger and malnutrition, but further transformation in the sector is needed to address the challenges,” said Mr. QU Dongyu, Director General of the FAO. "We must transform agri-food systems to ensure that aquatic food is sustainably harvested and also that livelihoods are safeguarded and aquatic habitats and biodiversity are protected."

Aquatic foods contribute more than ever to food security and nutrition. Global consumption of aquatic foods (excluding algae) has increased at an average annual rate of 3.0% since 1961—almost twice the annual growth rate of the world population—and reached 20.2 kg per capita, more than double the consumption in the 1960s.

In 2020, more than 157 million tonnes, or 89% of aquatic animal production, was used for direct human consumption, a slightly higher volume than in 2018, despite the repercussions of the disease pandemic by coronavirus (COVID-19). Aquatic foods contributed about 17% of animal-source protein consumed in 2019, reaching 23% in lower-middle-income countries and more than 50% in parts of Asia and Africa.

Asian countries were the source of 70% of global fisheries and aquaculture production in 2020, followed by countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Oceania. China remained the largest fish producer, followed by Indonesia, Peru, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, India and Viet Nam.

Aquaculture determines the future of aquatic food

Aquaculture has grown faster than capture fisheries in the last two years and is expected to continue to do so over the next decade. In 2020, aquaculture animal production reached 87.5 million tons, 6% more than in 2018. On the other hand, capture fisheries production fell to 90.3 million tons, which represents a decrease 4.0% compared to the average registered in the previous three years.

The reduction in capture fisheries production was mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which severely disrupted fishing activities, market access and sales, and to China's reduced catches and falling anchoveta catches, which fluctuate naturally.

The growing demand for fish and other aquatic foods is causing a rapid change in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. Consumption is projected to increase by 15% to 21.4 kg per capita in 2030, driven primarily by rising incomes and urbanization, changes in post-harvest and distribution practices, and new dietary trends, with special attention to improving health and nutrition.

Total aquatic animal production is projected to reach 202 million tonnes in 2030, mainly due to continued growth in aquaculture, which is forecast to reach 100 million tonnes for the first time in 2027 and 106 million tonnes in 2030.

Need for a blue transformation

The FAO says that work must continue to feed the world's growing population while improving the sustainability of reserves and fragile ecosystems and protecting livelihoods in the long term. According to SOFIA 2022, the sustainability of marine fisheries resources remains a major concern, as in 2019 the percentage of sustainably exploited fish stocks fell to 64.6%, representing a decrease of 1.2% compared to of 2017.

However, there are encouraging signs, as sustainably exploited stocks provided 82.5% of the total volume of landings in 2019, which is equivalent to an increase of 3.8% since 2017. This seems to indicate that they are being managed. larger populations more effectively.

FAO promotes the blue transformation, a visionary strategy to address the twin challenges of food security and environmental sustainability, while ensuring equitable outcomes and gender equality.

Climate- and environment-friendly policies and practices, as well as technological innovation, are also key to change.

“The blue transformation is a results-based process through which FAO Members and partners can maximize the contribution of aquatic food systems to improving food security, nutrition and affordable healthy diets, while remaining within the limits ecological,” says Mr. Manuel Barange, Director of FAO's Fisheries and Aquaculture Division.

Fisheries and aquaculture contribute to employment, trade and economic development. The total first-sales value of aquatic animal fisheries and aquaculture production in 2020 is estimated at USD 406 billion, of which USD 265 billion was from aquaculture production.

According to the latest data, some 58.5 million people worked in the sector; of these, approximately 21% were women. It is estimated that the lives and livelihoods of around 600 million people depend in some way on fisheries and aquaculture. Building resilience is essential for equitable and sustainable development.

Key figures from The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report (2022)

Production

- Total world production of aquatic animals and algae: 214 million tons

- First-sale value of aquatic animal production: USD 406 billion

- Marine capture fisheries: 78.8 million tons

- Freshwater capture fisheries: 11.5 million tonnes

- Aquaculture animal production: 87.5 million tons, a new record

Consumption and trade

- Total amount for human consumption (excluding algae): 157 million tons

- Value of international trade in fishery and aquaculture products: USD 151 billion

Employment and fleets

- Total workers in the primary sector of fishing and aquaculture: 58.5 million (21% women)

- Region with the largest number of fishers and fish farmers: Asia (84%)

- Number of fishing vessels: 4.1 million

- Region with the largest fleet: Asia (2.68 million vessels, approximately two-thirds of the world fleet)

fish stocks

- Stocks sustainably exploited: 64.6% (2019), 1.2% less than in 2017

- Sustainably exploited stocks of total landings: 82.5% (2019), 3.8% more than in 2017

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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