Food security exists when all people at all times have both physical and economic access to the basic food they need. Fisheries and aquaculture make an important contribution to the animal protein supplies of many communities in both the industrialised and developing worlds. It is, however, in Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs), that some communities are dependent on fish, not only for animal protein, but also as a source of micro-nutrients, minerals and essential fatty acids. Although, theoretically, these proteins and nutrients could come from other sources, in isolated fisheries dependent communities alternatives are likely to be more expensive, if they are available at all.
Annual world fish supplies were maintained at between 13 and 16 kg per capita during the 1990s, with a slight upward trend due to the rapidly increasing contribution of aquaculture. These aggregates hide variability in levels of consumption within countries, amongst countries and between continents. In LIFDCs, the apparent per capita consumption of fish has increased during recent decades. This rapid increase, however, largely reflects the rapid increase in the apparent consumption of China. In contrast, per capita supplies in sub-Saharan Africa dropped from about 9 kgs in 1990 to about 7 kgs in 1997, as a consequence of stagnating supplies from capture fisheries, incipient aquaculture and increased exports.
Improving food security requires making better use of fish produced by reducing post-harvest losses and increasing the percentage of fish used for direct human consumption. Post harvest losses caused by spoilage amount to about 10 to 12 million tonnes per year and, in addition, an estimated 20 million tonnes of fish a year are discarded at sea, another form of post-harvest loss. Converting low-value resources, into products for direct human consumption, rather than reducing them to fishmeal, would also contribute to greater food security.