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The consumption of fish and fish products in the Asia-Pacific region based on household surveys

Category Statistics & assessments

Fish and fish products play a highly important role in the food and nutritional security of rural, urban and coastal populations throughout Asia and the Pacific. In many countries, catching or farming aquatic resources forms a vital part of rural people's livelihoods and contributes a major source of protein, especially for vulnerable populations. While the importance of fish in both cultural and nutritional terms is clear, far harder to pin down are the actual amounts of fish that people throughout the region are consuming. For example, the practice of cultivating fish in rice fields or irrigation canals is common and provides a nutritional lifeline for the poor in parts of Asia during certain times of the year.

For statistical purposes however, these fish are all but invisible; absent from the official production figures or the FAO Food Balance Sheets (FBS) which represent the only global source of standardized consumption data. Consumption of fish from rice fields or artisanal fisheries is however picked up by household surveys. Carried out on a regular basis and to a high level of statistical accuracy, such surveys provide a wealth of information about consumption patterns and habits. This data can play a vital role in the development of fisheries and natural resource policies that may have considerable impact on the most vulnerable segments of the population. This study, carried out by the Asia Pacific Fishery Commission, examines household survey data pertaining to fish and fish product consumption in 30 countries across the region.

The information is also compared and contrasted with consumption estimates obtained through Food Balance Sheets. It is hoped that this publication can help shine the light on consumption patterns of fish and fisheries products at household level as well as some of the reasons for the differences between household survey and FBS derived figures. It is also hoped that the presentation of this data demonstrates the contribution it can make to more informed policy and decision making. FAO plays a key role in the global compilation, processing and dissemination of food and agriculture statistics.

It commits considerable resources towards gathering accurate data and also provides essential statistical capacity development to member countries. Considerable support has been provided to governments throughout the region to assist them to carry out more effective household surveys and this should increasingly pay dividends in years to come. Fish and fisheries products make an appreciable contribution to human well-being, food security and poverty alleviation in Asia-Pacific. The more detailed our understanding of consumption patterns, the more effective our management actions will be, potentially to the benefit of millions.

Needham, S. & Funge-Smith, S. J. (2014) "The consumption of fish and fish products in the Asia-Pacific region based on household surveys". FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand . RAP Publication 2015/12. 87pp