Press Release 97/35

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Press Release 97/35

WORLD FISH PRODUCTION SHOWS SLIGHT INCREASE IN 1996


ROME, September 24 - The 1996 world fishery production reached 115.9 million tons, an increase over the 113 million tons in 1995, which reflects the increase of China’s production, according to preliminary figures released today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“China continued to be the major world fish producer,” FAO said, “with a catch of 27.3 million tons in 1996, more than 50 percent of which comes from the expanding inland aquaculture industry”. In 1995, China’s catch was 24.4 million tons.

Other important world fish producers, according to FAO, were Peru, with 9.6 million tons of fish (up from 8.9 in 1995); Chile, with 6.9 million tons (down from 7.6); Japan, with 6.6 (down from 6.8.); the United States with 5.9 (up from 5.6); India, with 5.1 (up from 4.9); Indonesia, with 4.2 (up from 4.1); and the Russian Federation, with 4.6 (up from 4.4); all of the other countries contributed a global 45.6 million tons.

World shrimp production in 1996 was some 3 million tons, but “farmed shrimp production declined due to disease problems,” FAO said, indicating that forecasts for the first half of 1997 are for lower production, as main shrimp culturing countries continue to battle with disease-related problems.

In 1996, according to FAO, in the Asian region, Thailand maintained its place as world top farmed shrimp producer, though it declined to 210,000 tons from the 259,000 of 1995. China and India maintained production levels of around 80,000 and 70,000 tons respectively. In Indonesia and Viet Nam, farms were hit by disease. Bangladesh was spared and produced some 35,000 tons of shrimp.

In the Latin American region, the main producer was Ecuador, with an output of 120,000 tons out of a regional total yield of 200,000 tons. Overall, the Latin American region produced 10 percent more farmed shrimp in 1996 than in 1995.

“1996 was characterized by an over-supply of cold-water shrimp Pandalus borealis,” says the Food and Agriculture Organization. “This was mainly due to increased catches by Icelandic trawlers in the Flemish Cap, and as a result, prices of cold water shrimp fell sharply during the course of the year, and by December 1996, were 23 percent lower than at the same time a year earlier. Prices continued to fall in the opening months of 1997.”

The Icelandic shrimp catch reached a record in 1996, when 89,000 tons were landed, up from 83,600 tons of 1995, but the catch is expected to decline in 1997 as the Icelandic Minister of Fisheries has set a lower shrimp quota.

On the trade side, the overall shortage in shrimp supplies resulted in lower imports from Japan and the United States. Rising demand from the United States, favored by the high value of the dollar, could not be met, and U.S. imports decreased for the second year in a row to 264,000 tons -- 3 percent less than in 1995, 8 percent less than in 1994, notes FAO.

“The United Kingdom and France reported higher shrimp imports in 1996. For the U.K. the increase in imports was a substantial 12 percent,” FAO said, adding that “this expansion came exlusively from a 30 percent increase in cooked and peeled cold-water shrimp imports from Iceland.” The result was an oversupply of cooked and peeled cold-water shrimp which the market has not been able to absorb and it is foreseen that the coming months will see some declines in price levels for cold-water shrimp.

Shrimp production was low in the first half of 1997, FAO experts noted, with disease problems continuing to affect supplies in the main shrimp culturing countries with the likelihood that in some countries legislation might limit shrimp culture in the coming months.

As to world tuna fisheries, “recent surveys of the world tuna fisheries show that in many areas the resource is close to fully fished, or even over-fished.

The Northern and Southern bluefin is now under stringent quota systems in most areas. Yellowfin, skipjack fished in the Atlantic are of increasingly smaller sizes, and the interested countries have taken measures to protect them by banning catches for a certain period.

In the Indian Ocean, where tuna was abundant in the eighties, fish catches hardly contain big yellowfin tuna anymore, and interested countries are starting to take measures. The only area where tuna resources seem to be healthy is in the Western Pacific, where skipjack catch is still available.

“For yellowfin, however, catches world-wide are expecterd to go down,” according to FAO experts “and further price increases can be foreseen. This will have an impact on the consumption of tuna in those countries, where yellowfin is the preferred species, such as Italy.

“The catch of groundfish species has been halved in just ten years, and almost all groundfish stocks seem to be heavily fished or overfished. The 1996 world market of groundfish was characterized by a strong influx of Russian Alaska pollack at low price.”

On European fisheries, FAO noted that with the liberalisation of the eastern European economies, seafood trade with eastern Europe has expanded rapidly, and that the Russian Federation and Poland have become important markets for frozen small pelagics such as herring and mackerel. Mackerel supplies were tight in 1996 and prices reached record levels. Mackerel supplies are expected to remain tight in 1997, but supplies of herring are expected to increase.


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