At the end of the 1990s, humankind's need for food and income was still the dominant determinant of the nature and magnitude of fish consumption and production. The desire to reserve access to fish for pleasure - including non-consumptive uses - was growing, and in many instances was respected, although such uses were still limited to a small number of countries and, from a global perspective, had only a minor impact on those who fished or cultured fish to earn a living. In recent decades, however, the conditions determining the traditional use of fish have been slowly changing. One factor that has made an impact is the increasing size of the market, in terms of both the number of people and the geographical area covered. On the one hand, most consumers have had access to an expanding variety of food and fish products and a growing number of sellers. On the other, most primary producers have been able to choose from among a larger number of buyers. Thus, there has been an expanding range of possibilities both to satisfy food needs and to generate income. The resulting increase in the number of trading possibilities has had, and will continue to have, repercussions on the fisheries and aquaculture sector.
Fisheries governance has been affected by the deliberations of the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since that conference, the ecosystems dimensions of management issues have received increasing attention from governments, the UN system and the fishing industry. All are now more ready to recognize that fish are an integrated part of an aquatic ecosystem, a system in which modifications in one area have the potential to affect other areas. Thus, it is increasingly regarded as necessary, first to monitor the state of the aquatic ecosystem, and then to manage human interventions within that ecosystem. Only within such a framework will it be possible for capture fisheries to continue to be a source of food and income for future generations. In the coming years, humankind is likely to improve dramatically its understanding of the intricacies of aquatic ecosystems, and this will lead not only to more knowledge but also, and perhaps paradoxically, to growing uncertainties. As a result, there will be growing pressure for a strict application of the precautionary approach to all interventions, including those by fishers, in aquatic ecosystems. Both the aquaculture industry and the capture fisheries sector will realize that they must be seen by all concerned to respect this principle.
In many developing countries, fish grew in economic importance during the second half of the twentieth century and, by the end of the 1990s, the fisheries sector had become an important source of food, employment and foreign exchange - a situation that is likely to continue. A stable source of foreign currency is vital for countries, as increased participation in international trade is an essential condition for their economic growth, particularly for smaller countries with only limited or no mineral resources.
For many developing countries, fisheries are also a major vehicle for creating value added, thereby promoting economic growth. In some of the poorest, where fish is an indispensable part of food security for large sections of the community, including fishers, the ever-expanding possibilities of export markets have led to reduced quantities of fish being available in local markets. It is likely that the decision to sell fish in foreign rather than local markets, where it plays an important role in ensuring food security, will become problematic in some countries during the next decade. It also seems plausible that an increasing number of developing countries will develop national food security strategies and that fish will occupy a place in these strategies.
During the past decades, per capita fish consumption has expanded globally along with economic growth and well-being. However, growth will not go on forever. There is a limit to how much food - including fish - each individual will consume, and long-term ceilings for consumption will be established.
It is clear that the limit will be reached first by wealthy economies, and fastest in those where fish has been a staple food since ancient times - in Japan for example.
In well-off developed economies - essentially OECD countries - the image of fish is changing. It is moving away from being the basic food it once was and is becoming a culinary speciality. There are two main reasons for this: the vast majority of the population in these countries has the means to purchase adequate food and retailers are realizing that, to attract consumers, they have to sell a product that is more than just a basic foodstuff. Marketing campaigns launched for some fish products tend to affirm that the consumption of fish is an appropriate means of satisfying the consumer's need for variety and for nutritious, tasty, healthy and fashionable foods. The retailing of fish in these countries is no longer a question of satisfying a hungry consumer at a competitive price.
The term "fish" here stands for a large category of groups of varied consumer products made available by retailers. These groups of products vary distinctly from country to country and only a small proportion of them are traded internationally. In volume terms, fish trade is still dominated by intermediate products, mostly in frozen form with a few standard categories of cured and canned products. However, a portion of what are essentially national food specialities is finding its way on to the international market, and there are now a large number of such products. Fish has the potential to satisfy most desires for a variety of tasty, healthy and exotic products. International trade is likely
to continue to grow rapidly and its composition to be altered in favour of more high-value finished products and fewer raw materials.
In OECD countries, economic growth has caused a growing proportion of fish to be consumed outside the home and in the form of ready-to-eat products. A recent study of fish consumption in Japan1 showed that, in the period 1965 to 1998, the income elasticity of demand for fresh fish by Japanese households was -0.26. That is, for each 1 percent increase in average income, Japanese households demanded 0.26 percent less volume of fresh fish. However, consumption remained stable because the quantities consumed in restaurants or as ready-to-eat products increased.
There are signs that consumers in some other countries may also be approaching this voluntary limit to the quantity of fresh fish consumed. During the 1990s, changes in per capita consumption - expressed in live weight equivalent - did not seem to be explained by economic growth (see Box 17), at least in some of the wealthier countries where fish consumption was already above the world average in the late 1980s. There seems to be no way of telling with any precision at what level fish consumption in a particular country is likely to stabilize, but it would appear reasonable to assume that, for most countries, the figure would fall somewhere in the range of 20 to 40 kg/capita/year. Thus, countries where there is an extremely high consumption would see that consumption decrease, while those with a low consumption would see it rise. Argentina, where meat consumption is traditionally high, provides an example of such an increase. The consumption of fish in Argentina is reported2 to have doubled in the 1990s, from about 4 to 9 kg per capita/year.
In the developing countries, fish is still very much an essential food. It contributes an important part of the animal protein in many people's diets. In the mid-1990s, fish provided more than 50 percent of the animal protein for the populations of 34 countries. Several Asian and some African countries fell into this category. Nevertheless, fish is generally not an important source of calories.
1988-97 fish consumption < 20 kg/capita
United Kingdom (18.2)
1988-97 fish consumption > 20 kg/capita
United States (21.3)
In LIFDCs, the apparent consumption of fish has also increased during the last decades (Figure 43). As noted in the Overview, this rapid increase largely reflects the rapid increase in the apparent consumption of China.
Figure 44 shows the apparent consumption of fish in Africa. For Africa as a whole, availability has declined, and in some countries (e.g. Ghana, Liberia, Malawi) the average diet contained less fish protein in the 1990s than it did during the 1970s.
In most developing countries, fish will continue to be an important source of protein, but there will still be the potential for exports of fish and strong macroeconomic arguments for permitting and even encouraging such exports. Thus, countries will find that they need to promote schemes that make substitute foods, preferably other fish, available in local markets to replace what is being exported.
In Africa there are large stocks of small pelagic species off both the northwest and southwest coasts. These species can be harvested at a low cost and constitute an adequate replacement in local African diets for the exported high-value products. It seems plausible that countries along the Gulf of Guinea will want to develop joint strategies with countries in northwest and southwest Africa to exploit these stocks as a source of cheap and nutritious fish for local consumers. Existing regional fisheries management organizations would provide an institutional mechanism for coordinating national policies in this respect.
In some regions in Asia, cultured fish has the potential to replace exported high-value products in local markets. This is because fish farmers, with some exceptions such as those who culture shrimps and molluscs, already sell their produce in local markets. As a group, fish farmers have the ability to respond to increases in demand.
In South America, except for in the countries facing the Caribbean, fish consumption is generally low. The fish-dependent populations are coastal communities for whom fish supplies will not be a major problem.
As a result of the above trends in consumption, international trade will grow - possibly more rapidly in value than in volume terms. Trade will expand in two ways. First, in developing countries, fish processing for developed markets will become a very attractive employment-generating opportunity for governments that need to find alternative employment opportunities, particularly for displaced artisanal fishers and their families. In this context, the ready-to-eat segment of the industry is particularly attractive, as it is labour-intensive. However, most of the countries that depend on fish imports to satisfy demand also have fish processing industries and it is clear that these national industries will do their best to survive, even if it means opposing the abolition of existing trade barriers.
The second reason for an expansion in trade is that developing countries will become increasingly important markets for fish during the coming decades. As this happens, they will export more to neighbouring developing countries and other developing markets. For example, in South America, Brazil is likely to continue to be a major fish importer and its imports will come predominantly from other South American producers.
Most individuals become fishers or fish farmers because they expect the activity to provide a means of livelihood for themselves and their families. During the early part of the twentieth century, as a rule, no one interfered with this choice and those who were not directly concerned paid little attention to the activities of fishers and aquaculturists. However, by the early 1990s the situation had changed and the activities of fishers and fish farmers were attracting the attention of civil society, particularly in developed economies. The concerns voiced by national and international NGOs centred on what they saw as the inability of governments and producers to prevent damage to the living aquatic resources being harvested and to the ecosystem at large.
As these concerns went beyond national borders they provided an impetus for government and industry representatives to discuss the issues in international fora. This led to the development of several international agreements, plans of action and guidelines (most of them voluntary) to restrict harmful practices in capture fisheries and aquaculture.
From a global perspective, the impact of these agreements has been marginal in terms of the volume of fish produced and employment generated. Simultaneously, technological developments have improved productivity in existing fisheries and opened the way for new ones. The resulting increases in production have more than offset any reduction brought about by international agreements that limit or restrict fishing practices. In capture fisheries the principal barriers to increased production continue to be the productivity of wild aquatic resources and the economic and technological possibility of harvesting them sustainably.
In recent decades, technological developments in capture fisheries have led to rapid increases in the volumes caught per fisher and per year, particularly in industrial fisheries. As fish resources are finite (and prices are under pressure - particularly in the high-value segment of the industry - as a result of the continuing expansion of aquaculture production), fish stocks have not been large or productive enough to permit all fishers to continue their activities.
As a result, the number of active full-time fishers is declining in most OECD countries. These trends will continue. As fishers are barred from entry to fisheries (as part of a successful policy to contain and reduce fishing effort), as technology improves and productivity (measured in volume of fish landed per fisher) increases, some of the people who work in the industry will have to leave it.
International discussions have drawn attention to the environmental harm caused by fisheries - and to some extent aquaculture - which many societies might consider a relatively minor problem; the major problem, in fact, is the continued loss of economic rent in capture fisheries (Box 18). In fisheries worldwide, very large amounts are lost yearly as a result of poor management.3 It seems likely that this issue will attract increasing attention and civil society will demand that governments and industry capture these rents for the benefit of society as a whole. Governments are likely to have to confront this issue in the next decade. Optimal use of marine resources will become an agreed objective and access to fishing as a profession will be limited and reduced, but progress will be slow. There are substantial costs associated with the needed buy-out of industrial fishing vessels and, in small-scale fisheries, long-term funding will be needed to find alternative employment for fishers.
The practice of allocating tradable quotas is most likely to become more widespread, particularly in industrial monospecies fisheries. Most holders of such quotas will want their values to be high, and there are several strategies for assuring this, one of which is to ensure that there is a large number of buyers. In some countries, therefore, demands may emerge for the permission of international trading of quotas. If such permission becomes widespread in developed country fisheries, it seems plausible that entrepreneurs from developing countries with advanced fisheries will become buyers. They would be able to compete because of their lower labour costs and the availability of fishers who are still willing to face the risks linked to one of the world's most dangerous professions (see Fishers' safety, Part 2). This could be the start of a reversal of the situation that emerged towards the end of the last half century, when developed countries purchased the right to fish in the EEZs of developing countries. Such developments would not alter the fact that the management of all "national" fisheries would remain with the states that have the exclusive rights to the extended economic zones, and the buyers of quotas would have to respect the national legislation applying to the waters in which the quotas were valid.
In advanced economies, this "internationalization" of national marine fisheries will be fuelled by the difficulty of recruiting sea-going personnel. The age pyramid of full-time fishers is changing. In Japan, fishers aged 60 years or more accounted for 35 percent of all full-time fishers in the mid-1990s, up from 14 percent in 1980.4
During the last part of the twentieth century, the fishing pressure on inshore resources in developing countries underwent a steady increase. The immediate reasons for this were growing populations, modernization of fishing methods, and access to an increasing number of buyers. The greater fishing effort was bringing more inshore fish stocks into a state of overexploitation and the situation was becoming serious for many communities.
A few countries were beginning to deal with the problem. They did so by providing exclusive fishing rights for selected fish stocks to small-scale fishers' organizations (see Property rights and fisheries management, Part 2, p. 52) and by strengthening the enforcement of no-fishing zones for industrial vessels in inshore waters. It was becoming clear that, unless some power was given to local fishers' organizations, limiting participation in artisanal, small-scale tropical fishing would become a very difficult issue. As long as economies are depressed, the landless and the unemployed will see fishing as an opportunity for survival.
A strong reason for promoting improved management of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture is that these sectors provide employment in coastal (marine and inland) and rural areas that are often considered economically and socially marginal. Thus, fisheries activities are frequently one of the few employment alternatives, and sometimes the only one, available to local populations. Fisheries and aquaculture are seen as means to reinforce the food security of local populations; increase the geographical and economic integration of the countries concerned; mitigate the drift to urban areas; and create demand for goods and services that stimulate investment, decentralization of economic activities, regional economic growth and social welfare.
Over the last few years, the contribution of capture fisheries to food fish supplies has decreased, while that of aquaculture has increased. For the world as a whole, excluding mainland China, the supplies from aquaculture grew from 1.6 kg/capita/year in 1991 to 2.12 kg in 1998. The same situation prevailed in mainland China where, over the same period, the per capita supply of aquaculture products reportedly rose from 6 kg to an astounding
There do not seem to be any insurmountable obstacles to the continued growth of aquaculture. The activity is increasingly recognized in law and, therefore, is able to compete on an equal footing for land, water, feed, labour, etc. Externalities linked to aquaculture have been identified, and a basic consensus seems to have been reached that externalities need to be dealt with by requiring producers to bear the major part of the costs that otherwise fall on third parties.
At the end of the 1990s, most of the countries that had small aquaculture sectors expected these to grow rapidly. While many attempts will fail, others will succeed, and a growing number of countries are likely to see a vigorously growing aquaculture sector. This will ensure growth but, relative to world production, the increases will appear small and most are expected to be achieved by local entrepreneurs. Aquaculture is also likely to spread through experienced entrepreneurs bringing expertise, and sometimes species, from one country to another in their search for least-cost production sites for internationally traded products. This will ensure the expansion of production in Latin America and, increasingly, in Africa.
Asian production will continue to grow, but the rate of growth is likely to slow down in China when it becomes a member of WTO, and thus more open to food imports. China may become a market for cultured fish produced elsewhere in Asia.
In The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 1998, it was estimated that world demand for food fish in 2010 would be between 105 million and 110 million tonnes and available supplies about 105 million tonnes, with an additional 30 million tonnes being converted into animal feed. No great upward pressure on average prices for fish was foreseen. It was expected that increased supplies from capture fisheries would materialize only towards the end of the first decade of this century as a result of improved management. These estimates were based on, inter alia, UN population data from 1996.
In 1998, the UN revised its population projections downwards5 and its medium projection is now for a world population of
6 795 million in 2010. This is 96 million fewer than the estimate for 2010 published by the UN in 1996.
In 1999, the World Bank predicted that the world economy as a whole would grow faster in the period 1999-2008 than it had done in the proceeding ten-year period. As a result, the world per capita growth in GDP for the period was projected to reach 1.9 percent; up from the 1.1 percent in the World Bank's earlier projections.6
Recent FAO projections for meat7 show that worldwide per capita consumption is expected to grow at about 0.7 percent per year until 2015. This is lower than the growth rate projected for per capita GDP. Consumption in industrialized countries is expected to increase slightly, while it will grow in all developing country areas, fastest in East Asia and at a low level in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
What are the implications of this for the projections made in The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 1998? Overall, not very many - possibly a slight downward revision of overall estimates of global demand. On the one hand, the reduction to the estimated population forecast for 2010 is minor, at about 1.4 percent. On the other hand, this smaller than previously forecast population is expected to be somewhat richer than was projected some years ago. In OECD countries, increased wealth is not expected to lead to any significant increases in the volume of production, but expenditures on fish are likely to grow and an increasing share will be directed towards imported finished products.
In developing countries in Asia, in general, the supply difficulties experienced by capture fisheries will probably be counterbalanced by increased aquaculture production; even by the end of the 1990s, the great bulk of aquaculture production (in terms of volume) was already supplying local consumers, not OECD markets. Thus, consumption in these countries is likely to expand continuously during the next decade.
In the remaining developing countries, and particularly in Africa, local supplies of fish may continue to decline. The reasons for this are related to the time needed to institute effective effort controls in overexploited multispecies fisheries that are exploited by
a large number of individuals from a large number of landing centres. In addition, aquaculture developments are likely to focus on high-value products and, therefore, concentrate mainly on export markets.
It is by no means certain that a general increase in wealth in LIFDCs outside Asia will actually lead to higher fish production and consumption in these countries. Production may stagnate in many countries and, as local fish processors are likely to continue to have access to lucrative overseas markets, local supplies may diminish. In fact, real price levels for fish may increase in developing countries, which will tend to cancel the effect that increased prosperity could have on demand. It seems unlikely that export barriers will be established in the name of food security.
However, this pessimistic scenario is unlikely to apply to those LIFDCs where the fisheries sector accounts for a significant proportion of the national economy (e.g. Namibia, Mauritania, Maldives). The importance of the fisheries sector should generate the need, the will and the means for its management.
There would therefore seem to be no reason to make major modifications to the 1998 prediction of consumption. However, as Asia is the centre of world fish consumption (accounting for some two-thirds of the total at the end of the 1990s), what happens there will determine global developments. As projected economic growth in Asia will stimulate both demand and production in that part of the world, it is possibly more realistic to expect consumption in 2010 to be at least 110 million tonnes. This would imply that, for the world as a whole, per capita consumption would be slightly higher, at 16.1 kg, than it was at the end of the 1990s. A breakthrough in aquaculture (e.g. an extremely rapid spread of tilapia culture in Latin America and Africa) would be the only major reason for altering such a prediction. Another reason would be a faster than foreseen spread of good governance practices in small-scale fisheries - but this seems to be a remote possibility for the first decade of the new century.
By the year 2030, aquaculture will dominate fish supplies and less than half of the fish consumed is likely to originate in capture fisheries. The role of capture fisheries in the economies of the present OECD countries will have been reduced further as developing countries increase their share of both catches and subsequent processing. Their lower costs of labour will make these economies competitive both in the labour-intensive processing industry and as a source of seafaring fishers. In wealthy countries, an increasing share of the fish consumed will be imported and, as these countries will want to obtain fish as cheaply as possible, it is likely that most trade barriers will be removed in advanced economies.
Aquaculture will have expanded geographically, in terms of species cultured and technologies used. It is very unlikely that Asia will continue to dominate production to the extent that it did during the 1990s. Mariculture will account for a larger share of total production, particularly if offshore culture technology becomes viable.
Economic growth over the next 30 years will result in a larger number of individuals with established, steady patterns of fish consumption. A wide variety of products will be consumed - but the total quantity of products consumed per person and per year will not fluctuate greatly. By the end of the 1990s, it would seem that about 10 percent of the world's population had already reached this level of stability; that is, their consumption had stagnated in terms of the volumes of fish consumed. By 2030, the numbers of consumers in this category will have increased somewhat, mainly in Europe but also in some East Asian nations. However, as the growth of population in wealthy regions will be slower than in poor regions, the proportion of the world's population with stagnating volumes of consumption will not have increased substantially and is unlikely to be more than 20 percent in 2030.
Thus, over the coming decades, in most OECD countries the total volume of fish consumed will not change much, and the modifications that do take place are likely to be determined more by fluctuations in population size than by growing disposable real incomes. This does not mean that the value of per capita consumption will not increase - it most probably will as consumers increase the share of expensive fish products by buying more ready-to-eat products and substituting expensive for cheap fish products.
Consumption predictions for the 80 percent of the world's population who are still likely to increase the quantity of fish they consume are complicated. Although extrapolating the effect of population growth on the basis of UN projections and recorded apparent per capita consumption is straightforward, it is more difficult to make a reasonable prediction of how demand is influenced by rising incomes and the relative changes in real prices of substitutes.
For short-term predictions - over a year or two - recourse is usually made to calculating and applying elasticities of demand relative to growth in income and assuming prices to be stable. For a category that includes as wide a range of different products (and therefore substitution possibilities) as fish does, and for periods that are as long as 30 years, determination of the appropriate elasticity to use (Box 19) is a complicated issue. FAO is studying the development of long-term predictions in a two-pronged approach. In the first of these, during which the Organization worked in association with two CGIAR centres,8 a computer-based modelling approach was developed. The second approach consists of a series of in-depth investigations of probable future fish consumption in major consuming countries. The results of both are scheduled to be published in the course of 2001.
1 FAO. Prediction of demand for fish in Japan (in preparation). By M. Tada. Rome.
2 M.I. Bertolotti, E. Errazti, A. Pagani and J. Buono. Sector pesquero Argentino. 17 pp. Istituto Nacional de Desarrollo Pesquero/Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Argentina. (mimeo.)
3 There are many reports of such losses. A bio-economic model-ling of some demersal fisheries in the Gulf of Thailand, carried out in the middle of 2000, concluded that the losses for two of the fisheries involved could be about US$200 million a year. However, the reduction in effort needed to capture this foregone rent would be large and expensive to implement.
4 Government of Japan. 1980 and 1997. Fishery statistics of Japan. Tokyo, Statistics and Information Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
5 United Nations Population Division. 1998. World population prospects: the 1998 revision. New York, UN.
6 FAO. 2000. Agriculture: towards 2015/30, p. 27. Technical Interim Report. Rome.
7 Ibid., p. 75.
8 The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in Washington, DC, and the International Centre for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM), in Penang, Malaysia.