Growth in aquaculture drives global fish production to record high – report

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A fisherwoman sells fish in a local market in Mumbai, India's commercial capital. Photo/RS/IAC

Significant growth in aquaculture has driven global fisheries and aquaculture production to a record high as aquatic foods make an increasingly critical contribution to food security and nutrition in the 21st century, according to a new report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  

The 2022 edition of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) says the growth of aquaculture, particularly in Asia, lifted total production of fisheries and aquaculture to an all-time high of 214 million tonnes in 2020, comprising 178 million tonnes of aquatic animals and 36 million tonnes of algae.

Production of aquatic animals in 2020 was 30 percent higher than the average in the 2000s and more than 60 percent above the average in the 1990s. Record aquaculture output of 87.5 million tonnes of aquatic animals largely drove these outcomes.

As the sector continues to expand, FAO says more targeted transformative changes are needed to achieve a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable fisheries and aquaculture sector. A ‘Blue Transformation’ in how the world produces, manages, trades and consumes aquatic foods, is crucial if it is to achieve its sustainable goals. 

‘’The growth of fisheries and aquaculture is vital in our efforts to end global hunger and malnutrition but further transformation is needed in the sector to address the challenges,’’ said FAO Director General, QU Dongyu.

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

Over 157 million tonnes – or 89 percent of aquatic animal production, were used for direct human consumption in 2020, a slightly higher volume than in 2018, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aquatic foods contribute about 17 percent of the animal proteins consumed in 2019, reaching 23 percent in lower-middle-income countries and more than 50 percent in parts of Asia and Africa.

Asian countries were the source of 70 percent of the world’s fisheries and aquaculture production of aquatic animals in 2020, followed by countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Oceania. China remained the top fisheries producer, followed by Indonesia, Peru, the Russian Federation, the United States, India and Viet Nam.

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