By Steven Hedlund
Published on 01 March, 2009
Global seafood production reached a record 143.6 million metric tons in 2006, with aquaculture representing 47 percent of the seafood consumed by humans, according to a United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization report published today.
The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) attributed the increase in global seafood production to aquaculture; 51.7 million metric tons of farmed seafood was produced in 2006, compared to 92 million metric tons of wild seafood.
The FAO used the annual report to emphasize the need to better understand climate change and its impact on global seafood production, recommending that existing management practices be expanded to include strategies for coping with climate change.
"The message to [fishermen] and fisheries authorities is clear: Get in line with current best practices, like those contained in FAO's Code of Conduct for responsible Fisheries, and you've already taken important strides toward mitigating the effects of climate change," said Kevern Cochrane, one of SOFIA's authors.
"Many fisheries are being exploited at the top range of their productive capacity. When you look at the impact that climate change might have on ocean ecosystems, that raises concerns as to how they'll hold up," added Cochrane.
In response to the report, the World Wildlife Fund stressed the need for aquaculture to grow in a sustainable, environmentally responsible manner.
"The dramatic growth in aquaculture makes it more and more urgent to ensure that aquaculture becomes more sustainable and that supplying the stock and the feed for fish farming becomes less of a burden on traditional fisheries," said Miguel Jorge, director of WWF's global marine program. "Coastal aquaculture must also stop making inroads into fish habitat such as mangrove areas, it must becomes less polluting and less of a disease risk and it must be carried out without making communities more vulnerable to natural disasters."
The WWF's Aquaculture Dialogues, which involve more than 2,000 fish farmers, environmentalists and scientists, are establishing standards to minimize the key environmental and social impacts associated with aquaculture.
The FAO report's key findings include:
• Of the 143.6 million metric tons of seafood produced worldwide in 2006, human consumption represented 110.4 million metric tons, while industrial uses such as fishmeal accounted for the remaining 33.2 million metric tons.
• 19 percent of the major commercial fish stocks monitored by FAO are overexploited, 8 percent are depleted and 1 percent is recovering from depletion.
• About 43.5 million people worldwide work in the fishing or seafood industries, with 86 percent of the total residing in Asia; an additional 4 million people are engaged in the industries on an occasional basis.
• Seafood provides more than 2.9 billion people with at least 15 percent of their average per capita animal protein intake.
• Revenues from global seafood exports total USD 24.6 billion (EUR 19.6 billion) annually.
• The average ratio of fuel to carbon dioxide emissions for wild seafood is about 3 teragrams of CO2 per million metric tons of fuel used.
• Intercontinental airfreight emits 8.5 kilograms of CO2 per 1 kilogram of seafood transported, about 3.5 times that for sea freight and more than 90 times that of local distribution methods where seafood is consumed within 400 kilometers of the catch.