Aquatic Genetic Resources

Aquatic genetic resources make vital contributions to global food security and provide important livelihood opportunities and income for many fishing and farming families and communities. The world’s wealth of aquatic genetic resources provides the aquaculture and fisheries sector with great potential to further enhance its contributions to food security and to meet the challenge of feeding a growing human population.  It underpins the productivity and sustainability of global aquaculture and capture fisheries, and the essential services provided by aquatic ecosystems in marine, brackish and freshwaters.

However, despite estimates that project an increase in fish consumption of approximately 1.2 % per annum up to 2030, the opportunities to meet this growing demand  offered by the wealth of fish genetic diversity remain largely unrealized and unexplored. The characterization and conservation of aquatic genetic resources has taken on a sense of urgency that reflects the pressures on the Earth’s aquatic ecosystems and habitats. As capture fisheries reach, and sometimes extend beyond, the limits of their biological productivity, aquaculture currently plays and will play an increasingly important role in meeting the demand for fish and fish products from an ever-increasing human population.

The work undertaken by FAO on aquatic genetic resources for food and agriculture (AqGR) aims to: 

  • strengthen global governance
  • promote development and sustainable use
  • improve management and technical capacities
  • lead consensus-building towards improved conservation and responsible use in member countries.

The State of the World’s Aquatic Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

In 2019, FAO launched the first report on The State of the World’s Aquatic Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, on the occasion of the tenth session of the COFI Sub-Committee on Aquaculture in Trondheim, Norway.

The preparation of the report was a global and interactive process, drawing upon submissions from 92 countries, together representing 96 percent of global aquaculture production and over 80 percent of global capture fisheries production. It sets the context with a review of the state of world’s AqGR for farmed species used in aquaculture and their wild relatives,and includes overviews of the uses and exchanges of AqGR, the drivers and trends impacting AqGR and the extent of ex situ and in situ conservation efforts. It also investigates the roles of stakeholders in AqGR and the levels of activity in research, education, training and extension, and reviews national policies and the levels of regional and international cooperation on AqGR. Finally, it identifies specific needs and challenges for the conservation, sustainable use and development of AqGR.

In 2019, at its Seventeenth Regular Session, the Commission requested FAO to prepare a Global Plan of Action (GPA) for AqGR in response to the needs and challenges identified in the report. The GPA is currently being developed through a series of regional workshops and in close collaboration with the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) and is subsidiary bodies.

The Commission also recommended the development of a global information system and a registry of farmed types as well as stocks of wild relatives.