Nearly half the fish consumed as food worldwide are raised on fish farms rather than caught in the wild, says a new report from FAO. “The State of World Aquaculture 2006” was presented recently to delegates from more than 50 countries attending the biennial meeting of the FAO Sub-Committee on Aquaculture in New Delhi.
Can aquaculture actually deliver?
The jury is still out, according to FAO report. “Aquaculture could cover the
gap between supply and demand, but there are also many forces which could pull
production in the opposite direction, making it difficult for the industry to
grow substantially enough to meet demand in the decades to come,” it notes.
Aquaculture has been experiencing a boom since the mid-1980s, sustaining a
growth rate of around 8% per year. Today it continues to expand in almost all
world regions, with the notable exception of sub-Saharan Africa.
But FAO is concerned that momentum could taper off if governments and
development agencies don’t adjust their policies to respond to emerging
challenges that threaten to damper the sector’s future growth.
One serious bottleneck, says FAO, is the lack of investment capital for
producers in the developing world. Another is a shortage of land and freshwater
for use in aquaculture. Rising energy costs also pose a problem, and
environmental impacts and questions of product safety continue to require
Let them eat…?
The agency’s report also points to doubts regarding future supplies of
fishmeal and oil, used to feed carnivorous cultured species, such as salmon,
grouper and sea bream. Since 1985, world production of fishmeal and fish oil –
manufactured using fish which are caught in large volumes but which are not
consumed by humans – has stabilized at 6 to 7 million tonnes and one million
While the vast bulk of fishmeal is used for livestock feed, chiefly by the
poultry sector, aquaculture now accounts for 35% of the world’s fishmeal supply.
So as aquaculture’s fishmeal needs grow, competition with terrestrial livestock
for a limited resource will intensify, with ramifications for both price and
availability. Key to resolving the dilemma will be continued
progress in improving the efficiency of feed formulations – reducing the
amount of fishmeal they contain – and coming up with adequate vegetable-based
“We need to start planning now for handling these challenges, because
aquaculture is crucial to the fight against global hunger,” Ichiro Nomura, FAO
Assistant Director-General for Fisheries, says. “It offers a source of food that
is rich in protein, essential fatty acids and vitamins and minerals. And it
offers a way to boost development by providing jobs, improving people’s incomes,
and increasing returns on natural resource use. We must ensure that the sector
continues to expand, sustainable, to provide more people with food and income,
especially in areas like sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where hunger and poverty
Source: Feed Tech magazine Volume 10 nr.