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Nearly Half Of All Fish Eaten Today Farmed

Nearly Half Of All Fish Eaten Today Farmed, Not Caught, UN Food Agency Says

Nearly half the fish consumed as food worldwide are raised on fish farms rather than caught in the wild, says a new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“The State of World Aquaculture 2006,” which was presented to delegates from more than 50 countries attending an FAO meeting on the issue in New Delhi, shows that while in 1980 just 9 per cent of the fish consumed by human beings came from aquaculture, that figure has jumped to 43 per cent today.

That amounts to 45.5 million tonnes of farmed fish, worth $63 billion, eaten each year. Currently, freshwater and marine capture fisheries produce 95 million tonnes annually, of which 60 million tonnes is destined for human consumption, the FAO said.

Globally, consumer demand for fish continues to climb, especially in affluent, developed nations which in 2004 imported 33 million tonnes of fish worth over $61 billion, or 81 per cent of all fish imports that year, in value terms.

But levels of captures of fish in the wild have remained roughly stable since the mid-1980s, hovering around 90 to 93 million tonnes annually.

There is little chance of any significant increases in catches beyond these levels, FAO says.

The agency's most recent global assessment of wild fish stocks found that out of the nearly 600 species groups it monitors, 52 per cent are fully exploited while 25 per cent are either overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion. Twenty per cent are moderately exploited, with just three percent ranked as underexploited.

“Catches in the wild are still high, but they have levelled off, probably for good,” said Rohana Subasinghe of FAO's Fisheries Department and Secretary of the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture.

The FAO report estimates that an additional 40 million tonnes of aquatic food will be required by 2030 just to maintain current levels of consumption.

The only option for meeting future demand for fish, the agency said, is by farming them.

“Aquaculture is crucial to the fight against global hunger,” said Ichiro Nomura, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries. “We must ensure that the sector continues to expand, sustainably, to provide more people with food and income, especially in areas like sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where hunger and poverty prevail.”
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