UN FAO representative predicts big future for fisheries

The oceans must feed a greater proportion of the world’s population, a representative from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization told attendees of the World Ocean Council’s Sustainable Oceans Summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada from on 1 December.

Marc Taconet, a senior fishery officer with the FAO, said two billion people depend on fish for 20 percent of their animal protein intake by 2030. That reliance rises to 50 percent in coastal countries in Africa and the Pacific Rim – including some of the world’s poorest countries. 

Taconet’s statistics show that, by 2050, the world will need 50 percent more food to meet population growth. That translates into a requirement for 100 million tons more fish, making it vital that the world begins to restore fish stocks, reduce bycatch, and increase recovery on animal feed.

Fisheries are also an important part of the global economy, with the fishery value-chain currently accounting for more than 200 million jobs, Taconet said. Aquaculture already accounts for a large portion of those jobs, and will be the key source of growth for the sector in the future, Taconet said. The aquaculture industry has had a steady 8.3 percent annual growth since 1992 and will continue on that trajectory to 2026, when it will land 107 million tonnes of fish for human consumption. Between 2015 and 2026, Taconet’s numbers show total fish supply rising from 169 million tonnes to 194 million tonnes. 

By 2026, Taconet projected a decline in fish used to fishmeal and oil, but says demand will put pressure on prices, lead to an improvement in feed technologies and also enhanced feed conversion ratios through genetic selection.

While Taconet said he still worries about overfishing, he said he’s encouraged by the total number of species in the overfished category falling from 90 percent in 1970s to 70 percent in 2013. That’s primarily due to better management practices in the developed world, but Taconet said he’s worried that fewer overall species are fished within biologically sustainable levels.

Taconet also said climate change’s impact on fisheries will be large-scale and numerous. He noted that a number of its effects are already being felt globally – for example, acidification is having a negative impact on shellfish aquaculture in the Northeast Pacific, he said. The Mediterranean will see major changes, with autochthonous species there likely to be impacted due to increased temperatures. However, in exchange, it may see new species moving in, as fish biomass moves from currently tropical areas into the warming Mediterranean. Overall, fish biomass is expected to increase in temperate areas and high latitudes; and aquaculture opportunities may increase in inundated areas like Southeast Asia, Taconet said.


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