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The increasing globalization of the world economy and the ever-continuing information explosion both affect world fisheries and, as a consequence, those who are responsible for formulating and implementing national policies in the fishery sector find that the nature and scope of their task is changing. Today one essential aspect of this task is the monitoring and analysis of international developments in a more systematic manner.

Globalization is manifested in the fisheries sector through expanding trade, a greater reliance on market forces in policy-making and a very rapid increase in the amount and international mobility of private investment capital. One concrete result is that growth in the demand for fish products, no matter where it occurs, may affect fish production anywhere in the world through the mechanisms of foreign private investment and/or trade.

The makers of national policies for fisheries and aquaculture find increasingly that an understanding of only the national conditions affecting the sector is insufficient. The international context must be understood and taken into account and, while this has already been the case for administrators, managers and policy-makers in the major fishing nations for the last two to three decades, it is now becoming essential to all fishing nations. The task of those concerned is growing rapidly in size and complexity - it is not only a matter of knowing where demand is likely to expand, and for which products, but also of being informed of possible technological developments, the requirements of foreign markets, the likely actions of potential competitors and the likely reactions of consumers.

The information explosion means that there is a continually expanding supply of information concerning fisheries and aquaculture, but a large part of the most easily available data is local in scope and seldom placed in a historical context. As a result, this body of information is frequently too large and heterogeneous to be useful to senior managers and needs to be monitored, evaluated, consolidated and shaped into scenarios of plausible future developments.

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 1996 aims to do this by providing consolidated global information about recent developments in the sector and possible future trends.

The first section reports on trends in world production, utilization and trade of fish and fishery products (recent developments in aquaculture are reviewed separately). The section continues by reporting on the status and recent developments affecting four major issues in fisheries: fishing capacity; by-catch and discards; environmental degradation; uncertainty and risk. The section ends with a brief outlook for the fisheries sector.

The second section presents a study of marine fishery landings data for the period 1950 to 1994. The study examines time series of landings data for about 200 major resources using a generalized fishery development model and shows that the overall development during the period comprised a reduction of fisheries in the underdeveloped phase and increases in the proportions of those in mature and senescent phases. The potential for further development is examined for each ocean.

The third section contains a review of recent developments in fisheries and aquaculture by geographical region. For this purpose the world has been divided into eight regions: the South Pacific, East Asia, Europe (including the independent European republics of the former USSR), Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, the Near East and North Africa, South and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

In the fourth section the fishery activities, including those carried out in cooperation with FAO, of 14 country groupings are reported in a summarized form.

The report has been prepared by the Fisheries Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Most of the staff of that department, including those posted in regional offices, have contributed in one way or another. Consultants have also contributed: D. Insull to the first section; and J. Swan and L. Westlund to the third. Initial editing was done by R. Flood. The report has been finalized and prepared for publication by FAO’s Publishing Management Group where J. Shaw and M. Cappucci edited the text and designed the graphs, respectively, and M. Criscuolo designed the layout.

M. Hayashi
Assistant Director-General
Fisheries Department

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