Can aquaculture meet the
additional demand for fishery products?
This article is based on the authors keynote speech at the annual meeting of the World Aquaculture Society (WAS), Sydney, Australia, May 1999.
Fishery Resources Division
The future of the aquaculture sector is of interest to both planners
and the industry. This interest has been heightened by the growing importance of
aquaculture in global fish supplies and the fact that capture fisheries probably will not
be able to meet the growing demand for fish as the world population expands. Past attempts
to forecast the future of aquaculture were carried out in a global context. For the annual
meeting of the World Aquaculture Society (WAS), I tried to arrive at the global picture by
evaluating and summing up the regional pictures. Information and time permitting, a
sharper image could have been derived by analysis of individual countries, or at least the
major producers, as this would have allowed a better understanding of the main factors
which influence the future of the sector.
The question which was posed by the WAS for the keynote address was:
with a rapidly growing population and almost stagnant capture fisheries, can aquaculture
meet the challenge to provide food for the masses in the future?
The accuracy of the analysis was constrained by a number of facts:
accuracy of the statistical data over time, in particular for capture fisheries and
In view of these constraints, this analysis was based on the main factors for which data were more readily available. Firstly, projected population growth and animal and fish protein consumption of the regions were briefly examined. Then, the supply situation and trends of capture fisheries were reviewed, including possibilities for expansion of production and access to fishing areas. Finally, growth rates of aquaculture observed during the last decade were briefly reviewed. The concluding section tried to put these three components of the analysis together on a regional basis and to visualize their interaction, taking into consideration the forecast of regional economic development.
Population growth trends and protein consumption patterns
population in 1998 was estimated at 5,928.8 million with an annual growth rate of 1.4
percent. It is expected to grow to 6,831.7 million by 2010 and to 8,039.1 million by 2025,
with substantial differences in growth rates between countries and regions. Protein
consumption patterns and the ratios of fish consumption to total protein consumption also
differ significantly. Table 1 shows overall demand in Asia and Africa, by year 2010,
calculated on the basis of two scenarios: (A) a constant per caput supply based on 1996
level and (B) a 10 percent increase over 1996 levels.
the fish /animal protein ratio remained constant at about 26-27.5
percent the highest in the world.
The European situation is
characterized by stagnant population growth and a slight but progressive increase in the
consumption of fish products. Accordingly, an increase in supply of about one million
tonnes (t) will be required only for a 10 percent increase (over 1996) in per caput
consumption. In the case of North and Central America,
scenario A entails an increase in supply of 16.7 percent (1.25 million tonnes), and B
about 28.4 percent (2.13 million tonnes). Although this region has a high protein per
caput supply, it has a relatively low fish/animal protein consumption ratio, an indication
of preference for meat products.
additional requirements for South America
would amount to 20 percent (0.65 million tonnes) and 32 percent (1.05 million tonnes) in
scenario A and B respectively. There is apparent preference for meat products although the
per caput fish supply seems to have increased substantially. Oceania is a region with a
small population but with high dependence on fish in the diet. This would put additional
requirements at 17.2 percent (95 000 t) for scenario A and 29 percent (160 000 t) for
scenario B. The situation of the former USSR countries is anomalous in that annual
consumption of fish products decreased from a high 28 kg/caput in 1984 to 11.8 kg in 1996
due to the economic transition and changes in the operation of their fishing fleets. Since
population growth is expected to be modest, only a small additional demand of 17 000 t
will be needed for scenario A, compared to over 360 000 t for scenario B.
to increase fish supply, if present levels are to be maintained. A 10 percent increase above 1996 per caput supply would require 26 million tonnes, of which 72 percent would be required in Asia and 9.6 percent in Africa.
Contribution from capture fisheries
To what extent can capture fisheries help meet this additional demand? Global production for all uses from capture fisheries reached 94.5 million tonnes in 1997 (Table 2) with an increase of only 200 000 t over 1996 (29.5 million tonnes were for non-food uses). This increase was mainly due to inland capture fisheries. These figures confirm the levelling of production from marine capture fisheries globally, noted in earlier years. As can be seen from the APRs (average annual percent growth rate) in Table 2, the last four years registered a considerable decrease in the growth rate of landings at the global level, falling below the rate of population growth of 1,38 percent.
areas with some potential for expansion include:the
Northwestern Pacific, Western Central Pacific and the Eastern and Western Indian Ocean
(FAO Fisheries Department, 1998) 3. However, these are also the areas where there are more
stocks with uncertain status of exploitation. It is difficult therefore to assess the
potential additional supplies from those areas. Furthermore, any additional supply is not
available to all countries. In the case of the Northwest
Pacific , four countries (P.R. China, Japan, the Russian Federation and
the Republic of Korea) land 96 percent of the total catch. In the case of the Western and Eastern Indian Ocean, five countries (India,
Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia) land 62 percent of the total catch, although
there are several countries fishing in these two areas with substantial landings.
Atlantic, and Eastern Central Atlantic . Areas in which catches seem to have stabilized or are declining are: NE Atlantic, SW Atlantic, Eastern Central Pacific, NE Pacific, and Mediterranean and Black Sea (FAO Fisheries Department, 1998) 3.
therefore that any additional contribution from capture fisheries will derive from
increased landings in the four fishing areas mentioned above (i.e. in addition to the 42
million tonnes landed presently from these areas). It is more than likely that this
additional catch will benefit mainly Asian countries.
Aquaculture production trends
The other source of supply of fishery products is aquaculture. Production statistics and average annual growth rates for the various continents are given in Table 3a and 3b respectively. In 1997, production increase was 2.13 million tonnes (6.2 percent) over 1996, and Asia contributed 91 percent of the total. Annual growth rates in Asia started to decline in the second half of the 1990s, while fast growth was recorded in North and South America. South America has maintained a growth rate over 20 percent in the period 1994-97 thanks mainly to Chile. Africa and Oceania showed almost no growth in 1997, and the republics of the former USSR showed what hopefully might be a change in trend (from an earlier decline of 13 percent in the early 1990s): a 5.5 percent increase in production over 1996.
A few of the 179 countries practising aquaculture account for the majority of the production. Out of the total 36.05 million tonnes produced, 15 countries contributed about 94 percent of the total in 1997, and the top ten accounted for 89 percent (Table 4). Production has been driven by the fast growth rate in P.R. China, which has been, for all the periods considered, higher than the average global growth rate. The P.R. China produced two thirds of the total world production. Projections, based on regression analysis, indicate that the production expected for year 2000 in P.R. China could reach about 35 million tonnes, provided that development conditions are maintained.
Some emerging countries have shown a steady rapid growth in the last four years (e.g. Bangladesh and Viet Nam in Asia, Chile in South America and Norway in Europe). However, there is also a worrying decrease in the growth rate of the sector in some important countries. In general, if the APRs for 1991-97 and 1994-97 periods (Table 4) are compared, a generalized slowdown of growth is apparent.
There are a number of basic and important questions, related to the supply of fish products that could strongly influence future developments. These are:
Ø Can unconventional fishery resources be tapped in an economic way?
Ø Can discards be used economically?
Ø Can the governance of commercial fish stocks be improved in the short term?
Ø Will trade in fisheries products increase from the present estimate of 40 percent of the catch?
Ø To what level can aquaculture increase itsshare in the use of resources without serious conflicts?
Ø Can indicators of sustainability be developed as a warning system for production ceilings in aquaculture?
answers to these questions is very important. The quantities involved in capture fisheries
are very large and could easily modify the entire supply picture (e.g. unconventional
resources may exceed 60 million tonnes, and discards add another 20 million tonnes). A
better governance of stocks could also lead to the recovery of some stocks. However, it is
my personal opinion that the political will and human and financial resources required to
modify the present situation of governance, in particular in developing countries, could
only be achieved in the long term. It is also evident that urgent work remains to be done
to permit assessment of the availability of natural resources for aquaculture production
and their economic valuation, the potential gains from sustainable intensification of
aquaculture production, and the potential impact of technological and other advances on
At the beginning of this article I mentioned the need to consider
the general economic climate that influences investment and consumption patterns and
therefore also possibilities for aquaculture development. The expansion of aquaculture
production or any other economic activity will require funds and a clientele to which the
product could be sold. Consumers will also modify their habits depending upon their
purchasing power and this is governed by prevailing economic conditions. Macroeconomic
climate can act as an accelerator or as a brake for development, in particular for
development based on new technologies.
Another study is ongoing to estimate future fish supply and demand through the insertion of information on fish commodities in the standard FAO food demand model that has been used for all agricultural commodities. This new study will do separate analyses for freshwater fish, marine fish, crustaceans, mollusc, and other aquatic animals.
If we try to combine the available information gathered on the regions on population growth, supply of fisheries products and general economic information, we arrive at the following regional scenarios for the year 2010.
Taking into account population trends, the state of commercial fish stocks and the potential for increased catches from capture fisheries and production from aquaculture, Africa seems to present the most difficult situation. The continent would need an additional 1.8 million tonnes to maintain 1996 per caput supply levels in 2010. Given the poor prospects for increasing the supply from capture fisheries in the medium term, it would be a major challenge to raise aquaculture annual production by 1.84 million tonnes. Furthermore, considering that aquaculture production in 1997 was only 120 000 t, of which more than half was from Egypt, and that annual growth in the 1990s has been below 9 percent, a huge effort in terms of investment and organization of production would be required to meet this target, at a time in which the economic situation of the continent is not positive 4.
In terms of additional production, the Asian requirements for 2010 are considerable (11.6 million tonnes and 19 million tonnes for the two scenarios respectively). Scenario A could be met with annual growth rates on the order of 2.5-3 percent, while
scenario B would require a sustained annual growth rate of almost 4 percent. As Asia has had a growth rate in the 1991-1997 period of 12 percent, both targets would seem to be attainable. However, there has been a progressive and worrying reduction of growth rates in recent years, to an annual growth rate of 6 percent in 1996-97. This may be due to a progressive saturation of the P.R. Chinas capacity and may anticipate a plateau in production in the medium term. However, an economic recovery in the region may again encourage investment in aquaculture. Accordingly it is very likely that aquaculture will be able to meet demand under both scenarios. It should be remembered, nevertheless, that the four fishing areas with projected potentials for expansion are being exploited mainly by Asian countries, and that a contribution to the incremental fish supply requirements can also come from capture fisheries.
Since the population growth rate is not increasing, the challenge will be to maintain the supply derived from imports, which is already considerable and has been growing steadily in the 1990s (Laureti, in press). A sustained annual growth rate of 3 to 4 percent will be needed to produce the one million tonnes needed to increase per caput supplies by 10 percent by 2010. This is similar to recorded recent growth rates and may be possible. Much depends on whether growing environmental concerns and the closer scrutiny of sustainable forms of production do not slow down expansion of the intensive and highly competitive forms of aquaculture production that are typical of the region.
The former USSR republics have limited population growth in common with Europe. This simplifies the task of the aquaculture industry which should grow by only 17 000 t to meet the challenge of maintaining 1996 supply levels, and 360 000 t if it has to increase supply by 10 percent. This second scenario means essentially recovering the aquaculture production levels that this region had in 1990. After a number of years of sharp decline in production, there are signs of recovery of production that still need to be still confirmed. The future of aquaculture in these republics seems to be more linked to programmes aimed at economic recovery and to institutional changes that remain uncertain, than to the physical possibilities for expansion of production.
The challenge is considerable, given the relatively limited production levels and the difficulty to increase exploitation of marine stocks. Recorded aquaculture growth rates do not support the production of an additional 1.25 million tonnes (an increase of 200 percent in 13 years) needed to maintain the 1996 supply level. More likely, the region will increase its imports and diversify with other forms of animal protein supply since there is not a clear preference for fish protein.
South America would require an additional 650 000 t to maintain the 1996 supply level, or double the 1997 production, and 1 million tonnes in the case of a 10 percent expansion of per caput supply. However, this is a region where the Pacific coast is potentially very rich in fish although historically exposed to large variations in catch due to climatic factors. It is rather difficult to predict the stock situation, especially for pelagics, in the next ten years. Aquaculture production in the region is expanding rapidly, thanks essentially to the efforts of the private sector in a few countries. However, the bulk of the production is oriented to export. Since large countries like Brazil and Mexico are now promoting aquaculture development, both for domestic and export markets, and the sector is growing rapidly in countries like Chile, it can be expected that at least the first target (scenario A) will be met but with production coming from a few countries.
Oceania will require only an increase of 100 000 t to maintain the 1996 supply level, a doubling of the present aquaculture production, and 160 000 t to increase the supply by 10 percent. The region should not have major problems to meet the challenge if a proper environment for growth is provided for the sector. Capture fisheries in New Zealand for the South West Pacific have shown also an increasing trend and could contribute significantly to meet supply targets.
In conclusion, aquaculture seems to have the potential to meet the challenge in most regions. Filling the gap at global level would require a continuous growth rate of 4 percent to maintain 1996 per caput supply levels. However, the global view does not identify the growth needs of individual countries nor highlight the relatively limited amount of trade of aquaculture products. Countries like P.R. China, for example, could surpass the requirements of their domestic market, but it remains to be seen whether scarcity in other countries is going to lead to increased exports or to a modification of production in order to meet the needs of export markets.
1 Population data used in this article are from the United States Bureau