Aquatic Genetic Resources - A valuable and unexplored reserve of biodiversity for food and agriculture

Aquatic Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

The growth of aquaculture and capture fisheries production relative to human population growth

Total global fish production exceeds 170 million tonnes and is expected to rise to 201 million tonnes by 2030. Fish and fish products from aquaculture and capture fisheries are the world’s most traded food commodity and the sector is estimated to directly employ over 180 million people and supports the livelihood of eight percent of the world's population. Aquaculture is the most rapidly growing food production sector and now represents more than half of food fish production. The increasing demand for fish and fish products generated by population growth and other factors is expected to be met primarily from aquaculture.

In 2016 over 550 species were produced in aquaculture and over 1 800 species were harvested from the wild. The number of farmed species is constantly growing. Major aquaculture species include seaweeds, carps, tilapias, bivalve molluscs, shrimp and salmonids.

With the advent of modern molecular technologies there are an ever increasing array of technologies that can be applied to characterize and improve aquatic genetic resources (AqGR) but there is often a lack of understanding of the risks and benefits of these approaches. Click to enlarge

There is insufficient monitoring and reporting of AqGR, especially below the level of species (i.e. farmed types and stocks), which can undermine efforts to conserve, manage and develop these resources. Also harmonization and standardization of procedures and terminology used by those responsible for data collection, monitoring and reporting on AqGR are lacking.

The conservation, sustainable use and development of AqGR depends on good national, regional and global information systems for the collection, validation and reporting on AqGR, especially below the level of species.

Standardizing nomenclature in aquatic genetic resources

Standardized use of terms is essential. The following definitions are based in part on the customs of crop and livestock nomenclature. However, the terms "strain" and "farmed type" are newly elaborated for application specifically to AqGR.



Farmed type

Cultured aquatic organisms that could be a strain, hybrid, triploid, monosex group, other genetically altered form, variety or wild type.


A farmed type of aquatic species having homogeneous appearance (phenotype), homogeneous behaviour, and/or other characteristics that distinguish it from other organisms of the same species and that can be maintained by propagation.


A plant grouping, within a single botanical taxon of the lowest known rank, defined by the reproducible expression of its distinguishing and other genetic characteristics.


A group of similar organisms in the wild that share a common characteristic that distinguishes them from other organisms at a given scale of resolution.

Wild relative

An organism of the same species as a farmed organism (conspecific) found and established in the wild, i.e. not in aquaculture facilities.