Fisheries and Aquaculture


From local to global levels, fisheries and aquaculture play important roles for food supply, food security and income generation. While marine capture fisheries are stable, marine aquaculture continues to grow steadily and they together produce about 140 million tonnes of fish, or about 80% of the total quantity of fish produced by the inland and marine aquatic ecosystems. Aquaculture production now is more than half the capture fisheries production. Ocean fisheries provide livelihoods directly and indirectly to a large proportion of the 200 million people who, globally, are estimated to depend on fisheries and aquaculture for a living. Recreational fisheries contribute substantially to the global economy, tourism development, and quality of life. Fish and fish products provide about 20% of humanity's animal protein needs. For many of the world's most vulnerable people living on coastal zones or islands it is a particularly important and often vital source of protein and micronutrients necessary for a healthy life.

Additional statistics are available in the most recent edition of the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA). Hard copy includes an updated version of the FAO World Fisheries and Aquaculture Atlas CD-ROM or view online.

Ecosystem based management

The intrinsic value of marine life and the socio-economic importance of the fishery sector underpin the necessity for governments, to establish effective management systems in their exclusive economic zones and in the high seas. The available information on the state of the fishery resources indicate that, in 2010, about 50% of marine fish stocks are close to their maximum biological production level (or maximum sustainable yield), about 25% are overfished, and about 25% could possibly sustain higher exploitation rates. However, those stocks being fished at their maximum level of production could rapidly become overfished if fishing pressure is not effectively controlled. Historical data indicate that the proportion of stocks being overfished has increased significantly since the early seventies, underlining the need for an improvement in fisheries governance. Additional stress on the fisheries production system is added by pollution and environmental degradation from non-fisheries developments, including land-based ones, with long-lasting and possibly irreversible consequences for fisheries.

The contribution of aquaculture and coastal aquaculture is increasing rapidly, filling the gap between supply and demand of fishery products. This development has problems related to water use rights; pollution; diseases; invasive species; and modification of wild genetic pools.

Governance for increased food security

Careful and thoughtful improvement in the governance of fishing and aquaculture, and its integration with other sectors' management (e.g. in the coastal areas) could bring about greater reliability of supply, improved economic viability and the generation of increased benefits for fishers and for society as a whole. Failure to establish effective governance in fisheries and in coastal areas could result in a further deterioration in food security, particularly for the most vulnerable people in the developing world; increasing impoverishment of fishers; and destabilization of social structures in remote coastal areas. New forms of governance are being tested, including various forms of fishing rights as well as precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches.

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