Press Release 97/9

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Press Release 97/10


ROME, March 17 -- In its State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report, 1996, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported record fish production, mainly pushed by aquaculture, and said increasing demand for fish could be met through better management despite pressure on top marine fish resources.

The report, presented to the biennial meeting of the Organization's Committee on Fisheries, also urged rehabilitation of degraded resources, further exploitation of under-developed resources, reducing discarding and wastage and avoiding overfishing of resources already at their highest level of sustainable exploitation. Through such measures, the FAO report said, an additional 20 million tons of landings might be obtainable.

FAO's State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) put 1995 fish production at a new record of 112.3 million tons, up from the previous high of 109.6 million tons in 1994. Early indications were that the 1996 output would not represent any significant changes from the 1995 record.

Mr. Moritaka Hayashi, FAO Assistant Director-General and Head of the Fisheries Department, told the 4-day meeting of some 100 nations at FAO Headquarters that threats to the long-term capacity of fisheries to supply food and livelihood cannot be solved solely by market forces. "In the particular issue of overfishing, history shows that therein lies the road to overcapitalization in industrial fisheries and excessive pressure in the case of small scale fisheries and a headlong chase in pursuit of greater harvests. This has led to the collapse of some fisheries and fish stocks."

Referring to overfishing and the issue of sustainable fisheries, SOFIA noted that in the first half of the 1990s, the international community addressed several management issues connected with sustainable fisheries culminating with the adoption of the Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries by the FAO Conference in Rome, in October 1995.
A study on the potential of fisheries, examining the dynamics of 200 top marine fishery resources of the world, demonstrates the rapid increase in fishing pressure, and SOFIA indicates that "there has been a gradual increase in the estimated number of stocks requiring management, from almost none in 1950 to over 60% in 1994," underlining the urgent need for effective measures to control and reduce fishing.

"For the resources which are presently below their historical peak levels of production, it might be possible to return to these levels, by reducing fishing effort and, in most cases, simultaneously improving yield-per-recruit," said SOFIA. "This can be achieved by increasing significantly the age at first capture, prohibiting the exploitation of juveniles, increasing mesh sizes, and closing temporarily or permanently areas of concentration of young fish."
"Elements of information available indicate that an increase in production of capture fisheries of at least 10 million is possible, plus further increases in landings of an unknown magnitude obtained from fisheries development, as well as from mariculture."

Increases in production, according to SOFIA, will come from aquaculture and "from further fisheries expansion on those resources which are apparently still increasing their contribution to world landings. About 40% of major fish resources are classified as still developing in this study."

As to demand, SOFIA saw a conservative estimate demand of food fish in the range of 110 and 120 million tons in the year 2010, compared with 75 to 80 million tons in 1994/95. According to SOFIA, fish landings by capture fisheries in 1995 amounted to 90.7 million tons, with 10 countries covering about 70% of the total volume.
Mariculture and inland aquaculture contributed some 21.6 million tons, with five Asian countries (China, India, Japan, Rep. of Korea and the Philippines) supplying 80% of the volume, which saw a predominance of carp production.

Aquaculture contribution to world fishery production increased consistently since the 1980s, says the report, and maintained its position as one of the fastest growing food production activities in the world.
In 1995, 31.5 million tons of fish were used in fish meal production, while fish supplies for consumption (80.8 million tons) reached new record levels, bringing total average annual per caput availability of fish food to 14 kg (live weight equivalent).

In terms of trade, SOFIA found that "the value of international fish trade continues to increase: ten years ago, the value of international fish exports was US$ 17 000 million; in 1990 it had reached US$ 35 800 million, and in 1994 it was up to US$ 47 000 million." Indications are that in 1995 the value of global fish exports exceeded US$ 50 000 million.

Developed countries, according to SOFIA, accounted for about 85% of total fish imports in 1995 in value terms. Japan continued as the largest importer of fishery products, with some 30% of the global total. In 1995, fish imports by all three major world importers (Japan, EU and USA) increased.

"International public concern with fisheries and aquaculture is focused on features of the sectors which may be seen as threats to their long-term capacity to provide both food and a source of livelihood," Mr. M. Hayashi told the Committee. These features were among others, overfishing, by-catch and discarding, and degradation of the aquatic ecosystem. Referring to the important role that fisheries play in food security, recognized by the recent World Food Summit in Rome, Mr. Hayashi said: "Although supplies of seafood may keep pace with demand world-wide, this does not mean that the needs of all consumers will be satisfied. It is conceivable -- although not inevitable -- that the chronically poor and food insecure will be worse off in the short run as price increases and distribution problems could keep seafood, and other protein-rich food, out of their reach." He urged the Committee to examine a combination of technological, economic and legal solutions to these issues.

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