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In recent years fish supplies have expanded rapidly. As reported in the new edition of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, in 1994 they reached 109.6 million tonnes, and preliminary figures for 1995 indicated a new peak of total production at 112.3 million tonnes. The increase is mainly a result of continued rapid growth in aquaculture production, particularly in China, and rapid expansion of highly fluctuating harvestable stocks of pelagic species off the west coast of South America. Both fishmeal production and fish supplies for human consumption have reached record levels.

In 1995, landings by capture fisheries reached about 91 million tonnes. Ten countries accounted for about 70 percent of the volume. Aggregate production in the low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) continued the pattern of high growth that has characterized recent years, showing an average annual rate of increase of 6.9 percent during the period 1988 to 1994. In 1994, LIFDCs accounted for 35 percent of total production, compared with 26 percent in 1988.

Provisional production figures for mariculture and inland aquaculture show an estimated increase from 18.6 million tonnes in 1994 to 21.3 million tonnes in 1995, more than offsetting a very small (i.e. 0.02 million tonne) decline in the harvest from marine and inland capture fisheries during the same period.

The rapid growth in aquaculture production is the result of an increased predominance of Asian aquaculture and of carp species. Five Asian countries (China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Philippines) accounted for 80 percent of the volume of aquaculture produce. In 1994 carps accounted for almost half of the total volume of cultured aquatic products (aquatic plants excluded). Even though cultured fish and shellfish contribute significantly to total national fishery production, aquaculture in most countries is dominated by a few species.


Of the preliminary figure of 112.3 million tonnes of total fishery production in 1995, it is calculated that some 31.5 million tonnes were used for reduction. The amount of fish available for direct human consumption in 1995 was estimated to be 80 million tonnes, 3.4 million tonnes more than in 1994, representing a greater increase than the estimated population growth rate in the same year. Therefore, average annual per caput availability of food fish increased to 14 kg.


The value of international fish trade continues to increase. In 1985, the value of international fish exports was US$17 billion. In 1990, it was US$35.8 billion. In 1994 it had reached US$47 billion. The increased volume of international trade in fishery products in 1994 was associated with higher trade in low-value commodities such as fishmeal, with the result that the value of exports increased less than the volume. Preliminary figures for 1995 indicated an increase in the value of trade because of higher prices. However, in recent years the growth in value of international fish trade has slowed down.



Developed countries accounted for about 85 percent of total fish imports in 1995 in value terms. Japan continued to be the world’s biggest importer of fishery products, with some 30 percent of the global total. In 1995, fish imports by all three major world importers (Japan, the European Union and the United States) increased.

For many developing nations, fish trade represents a significant source of foreign currency earnings. Net receipts of foreign exchange by developing countries - calculated by deducting their imports from the total value of their exports - demonstrated an impressive increase from US$5.1 billion in 1985 to US$16 billion in 1994, and a further increase was likely for 1995.


In the first half of the 1990s the international community addressed several of the management issues connected with sustainable fisheries:

· how to reduce overfishing and control fishing capacity;

· how to reduce by-catches and discarding;

· how to reduce environmental degradation of catchment and coastal areas;

· how to deal with uncertainty and risk.

The discussion resulted in the concept of responsible fisheries and the elaboration and adoption of the Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries by the Conference of FAO in Rome in October 1995.



The medium-term outlook for global demand for food fish is largely determined by population growth, changes in per caput income and the pace of urbanization. The interplay of these factors was considered in a review prepared by FAO for the 1995 Kyoto Conference on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security. The review gave a conservative estimate of demand for food fish in the year 2010 (at 1990 constant real prices) in the range of 110 to 120 million tonnes (live weight), compared with 75 to 80 million tonnes in 1994/95. This estimate is based on per caput demand projections by country. It is expected that demand for, and supply of, fish for reduction will remain stable at between 30 and 33 million tonnes over the next few years. (It is realized that the demand for fishmeal is complex, and this projection is made in the absence of detailed studies.) In summary, projected demand for fish for all uses is in the order of 140 to 150 million tonnes for 2010.

Over the past few years, governments have taken action to deal with capture fisheries matters, both separately and in concert. This is a promising trend for future supplies. FAO estimates that the world’s potential harvest through capture fisheries is between about 85 to 90 million tonnes with current fishing regimes1 (i.e. with some fish stocks overfished and some underexploited, and regardless of any increased supplies from a reduction in discarding) and 100 to 105 million tonnes if management systems for capture fisheries are improved in all oceans and with some positive reduction in discarding.

1 Inland fisheries contribute about 6 million tonnes annually, and during the period from 1986 to 1994 marine capture fisheries fluctuated between 80 and 85 million tonnes.
There is considerable potential for further expansion of aquaculture. It has been estimated that under favourable conditions production (not including aquatic plants) could be 39 million tonnes by 2010.

Total supplies for human consumption (calculated by deducting fish to be used for reduction from total fish supplies) under the best of circumstances may reach 114 million tonnes in 2010; if circumstances are less favourable this figure could be significantly lower, at 74 million tonnes. Therefore, only under the optimistic scenario will supply meet demand (at 1990 constant real prices) in the year 2010.



With a total production of 7.1 million tonnes in 1994, North America contributed about 6 percent of global fish catch.

Future seafood demand in North America will probably be stimulated by the growing perception of fish as healthy food and inhibited by sanitary and environmental concerns. In aggregate, it is difficult to quantify the exact impact of the different issues upon consumption patterns. Nevertheless, it is expected that demand for fish and fishery products will increase. A further shift to higher-value seafood could also be expected.

The marine capture fisheries of the region have practically reached a plateau of production where most commercial fish stocks are fully fished or overexploited.


In 1994 fish production in Latin America and the Caribbean reached a record level of 24 million tonnes, representing 22 percent of the world total. Small pelagic marine fish make up about 75 percent of the total catch.

Fish consumption has been increasing gradually over the past 20 years and will probably continue to increase in the future. With population and economic growth taken into account, it is estimated that demand will increase by about 2 to 3 million tonnes by the year 2010.

Increased supplies could come from the reduction of discards and post-harvest losses. Greater utilization of small pelagic fish for direct human consumption could be another key issue for the region. Fish production in the region will continue to fluctuate according to the variability in abundance of small pelagic stocks.

Export-oriented industrial aquaculture has expanded significantly in the region and still has moderate growth potential. Other types of aquaculture such as pond-based fisheries in reservoirs, freshwater fish culture and culture of molluscs and aquatic plants have all grown less than expected.

Given the strong influence of international demand in terms of volume and unit value, and the orientation of the regional export industry towards foreign markets, the value offish exports is likely to continue to grow.


Fish production is important to many countries in the region (which includes the Russian Federation), in particular as a foreign exchange generator in the countries in transition and as a source of employment in coastal communities. The region is a net importer, both in value and volume.

Demand for fish is likely to increase in the future, given the positive perception of fish as a food item in the western part of the region and the recovery of previous consumption levels in the east. Fish production in the transition countries, in particular the Russian Federation, should stop declining soon and start to recover slowly.

Future fishing prospects for the industrialized countries depend mainly on the effectiveness of fisheries management in the Northeast Atlantic. Elimination of over capacity and amore direct control of fishing efforts could be among the components of a scheme for improved management.

In order to meet future demand, the region as a whole will continue to be a net importer of fish.


No country in the region depends substantially on fish and fishery products as a mainstay of the economy.

Fisheries are diversified, ranging from those based on relatively abundant resources off the Atlantic coast of Morocco, to coastal and inland-water fisheries of relatively poor resources.

It would seem reasonable to expect that, at least until 2010, a slight increase in demand could be met from higher regional landings of fish. Morocco will probably show a high increase in fish consumption as the economy and the fisheries sector expand. Fish consumption in Near Eastern countries is expected to remain relatively modest. Fish supply does not play, and is not expected to play, a substantial part in the food security of the subregion, but fish nonetheless constitutes an important alternative food source.


Fisheries are important in many African countries for their contribution to animal protein supplies, foreign exchange earnings and rural employment. An estimated 8 million people are directly or indirectly employed in the sector. Total production by the countries of the region(excluding production by foreign fleets not landed in the region) amounted to 3.9 million tonnes in 1994. Food fish consumption has declined recently, from an average per caput supply of about 9 kg in 1990 to less than 7 kg in 1994(live weight equivalent). The overall trade balance of the region has been positive (in value terms) for the past decade, even though the region only has a marginal role in international trade.

United Nations projections for population growth predict a regional population of 700 million inhabitants by the year 2000 and 915 million by 2010. At current levels of per caput food fish consumption, an increase of total supplies in the order of 2 million tonnes would be needed to meet demand in 2010.

The main future possibilities for increasing food fish supplies in the region include productivity enhancement programmes in small water bodies, aquaculture development, better utilization of small pelagic fish, relocalization of foreign fleets and increased imports.

Given the forecasts for modest growth in gross domestic product over the next 15 years, future prospects appear rather dim. Likely trends include further constraints on imports, increases in real fish prices, continued demand for mainly low-value species and the continuing export of most demersal production. At the same time, lower public subsidies will increase production costs and weaken competitiveness in export markets in the process.

The implications for food security and supplies as well as for foreign exchange earnings are difficult to quantify but might be a cause for concern in the future.


Fish production is an important economic activity in the East Asian coastal States. The region is one of the world’s largest fish-producing areas, with a total production of 36.6 million tonnes in 1994.

Fish consumption in the region should stay high and should even increase in some areas (both in volume and in per caput levels) along with population growth and improved consumer purchasing power. An exception may be Japan, where fish consumption is already high and population growth is close to zero. Japanese fisheries are unlikely to grow significantly over the coming decades.

The Republic of Korea is currently liberalizing its trade regulations on fishery products, and imports could be expected to increase. However, at the same time the country will remain an important exporter.

In China, the expected continuation of both rapid economic growth and expanding fish production will enable per caput consumption to increase further. Significant growth potential exists for freshwater aquaculture, principally through the rehabilitation of existing ponds and the utilization of waterlogged areas and the vast surface areas of paddy fields.


The South and Southeast Asia region includes some of the most productive fishing waters in the world. Total regional fish production was 19.5 million tonnes in 1994, representing 27 percent of the global catch.

The regional population is growing rapidly, and fish is a customary source of animal protein for most people. Domestic markets should grow rapidly in response to rising incomes, and higher prices on international markets will help expand exports of high-value wild and farmed fishery products. Higher incomes also mean more intraregional trade for both high-value products and low-price fish. By 2010, fish supplies will need to increase by 6 million tonnes merely to maintain current per caput consumption levels; because of the effect of economic growth on demand, even higher volumes will be needed.

However, most of the pelagic fish, crustaceans and demersal species in coastal fishing grounds in the Gulf of Thailand, the Gulf of Tonkin, the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea have been fully exploited or depleted. Although there are some moderately exploited fish stocks (e.g. anchovies, and smaller tunas and cephalopods in the Western Central Pacific), it is clearly unlikely that future demand will be met from significant increases in marine fish production.

Aquaculture, and to a lesser extent inland fisheries, may provide considerable opportunities for further development to increase regional fish production, particularly in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. Nevertheless, the region will probably rely more and moreon imports of fishery products for its future supplies.


Although South Pacific fisheries (including fishing by foreign fleets) provide only about 2 percent of total world fishery production, the fisheries sector - together with tourism - plays a critical part in the economies of the States and territories of the region.

The region’s fisheries resources are probably capable of meeting a somewhat increased future demand for fish, although it is likely that additional amounts of pelagic species will have to be consumed, particularly in urban areas and in other areas of high population concentration. The promotion of sustainable fisheries and the implementation of regional and national arrangements to ensure that fisheries resources are utilized rationally are major social and economic policy issues in the South Pacific, and most States and territories are attempting to deal with overfishing of inshore resources.

In the small island developing States (SIDS), the forecast is for a contraction of fish imports and a small increase in exports, mainly tuna. Fresh sashimi-grade tuna is already air-shipped to the Japanese market, but distance and other logistic problems will continue to hamper access to this lucrative market. Papua New Guinea might become an important exporter of canned tuna to the European market once its cannery is fully operational.




The in-depth study, extracted from FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 359, Chronicles of marine fishery landings (1950-1994):Trend analysis and fisheries potential(1996), presents an initial analysis of trends in marine resources as described in the FAO fishery production statistics for 1950 to 1994. During this period marine production of fish, crustaceans and molluscs grew from 18 to 90 million tonnes.

The first estimates of world fishery production were provided by FAO in 1945. They indicated that the total marine harvest was 39 billion pounds (17.7 million tonnes), of which 37 billion pounds were commercial landings and the remainder subsistence and recreational landings. Even then, one-third of the total landings were destined for reduction to fishmeal and oil. At that time only the North Pacific and North Atlantic fisheries were well developed, and these areas accounted for 47 and 46 percent of the total commercial harvest, respectively, while the southern parts of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans accounted for 1 percent each and the Indian Ocean for 5 percent. The report publishing these estimates stated that there were considerable possibilities for fisheries expansion, mainly off Central America, off Peru and Chile, in the Caribbean, off West Africa and off Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific Islands and the East Indies. The report recognized, however, that some stocks were already overfished and pleaded that the benefits of stock recovery in European waters during the Second World War should not be lost once normal fishing activity resumed. It stressed the essential need for fisheries conservation based on scientific evidence, particularly at the regional level, and recommended that FAO promote the collection of basic fishery data and analysis of them.

In the 50 years since that report was prepared, fisheries have developed rapidly, with the result that there are now few underexploited resources and an increasing number of overexploited ones. The challenge of implementing effective management has proved much more difficult than the authors of the 1945 FAO report could have expected.


Production from marine fish species has risen from about 14 million tonnes in 1950 to about 73 million tonnes in 1994. Of this amount 10 percent is unspecified marine fish which is usually landed unsorted and which goes in part for reduction to oil or meal. The proportion in weight of the total marine fish landings that is accounted for by pelagic fish rose from about 50 percent in 1950 to over 60 percent in 1994. The production of pelagic fish increased in general over the period, with large oscillations reflecting natural variations of resource productivity as well as boom and bust fishing strategies. In terms of value, pelagic production is less important than demersal production, but the relative importance of the former has been increasing with time. In 1993 pelagic production accounted for about 40 percent of the total value of the marine fish landings compared with 50 percent for demersal fish and 10 percent for unspecified marine fish. Demersal fish production showed an increasing trend until the mid-1970s and has generally levelled off, with some oscillations, since then. The production of unspecified fish continued to increase throughout the time period considered, however, of their overfishing and the overfishing of those resources that have already reached the highest level of and this represents a major shortcoming of the data set.


The overall picture that emerges of the current state of world fisheries is consistent with the scenario presented in FAO’s last world review of the state of marine fisheries, but with due consideration to the numerous caveats, it differs somewhat in regard to fisheries potential.

The study analyses the dynamics of the 200 top marine fish resources of the world in light of the rapid increase in fishing pressure. Results indicate that in 1994 about 35 percent of these resources were in the “senescent” phase (with declining landings), 25 percent more were in the “mature” phase at a high exploitation level, and 40 percent were still “developing”; none remained in the “undeveloped” phase. (These figures refer to “conventional” resources, as no time series of data exist for analysis of the state of non-conventional resources such as krill, mesopelagic fish and many oceanic squids which are usually considered underdeveloped.) A corollary is that there has been a gradual increase in the estimated amount of stocks requiring management, from almost none in 1950 to over 60 percent in 1994. The results underline the urgent need for effective measures to control and reduce fishing capacity and effort.


Resources that are currently below their historical peak levels of production could possibly be returned to these levels by reduction of fishing effort and, in most cases, simultaneous improvement of yield-per-recruit. This can be achieved by increasing significantly the age at first capture, prohibiting the exploitation of juveniles, increasing mesh sizes and closing temporarily or permanently areas of high concentrations of young fish.

An opportunity for improvement is the reduction of unwanted by-catch, which is an important problem. It has been estimated that 27 million tonnes of fish are discarded every year, comprising species of low commercial value but also a large proportion of juveniles.

Increases in production would come from further fisheries expansion for “developing” resources, i.e. those that make a still growing contribution to world landings.

In conclusion, the information available indicates that an increase in fisheries production of at least 10 million tonnes is possible. In addition, further increases in landings of an unknown magnitude could be obtained from fisheries development and mariculture. FAO indicated in 1995 in The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture that 20 million tonnes more of landings might be obtainable. The results of the present study provide a firmer basis for believing that such an increase can be realized if:

· degraded resources are rehabilitated;

· underdeveloped resources are exploited further, with avoidance, sustainable exploitation they can stand;

· discarding and wastage are reduced.

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