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Feeding the future world: the role of aquaculture

The Earth is inhabited by nearly 6.5 billion people, more than half it’s population live in only six countries. Although population growth has slowed since the 1960s, the number of humans will increase between nine and 10 billion by 2050. The rise will be biggest in some Asian countries and Africa. This is a concern to many, particularly for people planning on how to feed the future world.

Fish is one of the most widely used low-cost protein sources in many parts of the world. However, it is clear that the availability of fish harvested from capture fisheries to support the growing demand for fish protein will be inadequate. Thus, the world will need to turn to producing fish, i.e. aquaculture. Asia, as the cradle of aquaculture, contributed almost 90 percent to the global production of 54.8 million tonnes (with a value of US$ 67.3 billion) in 2003. During the ten-year period from 1993-2003, total aquaculture production showed an average annual increase of 9.4 percent. According to FAO statistics and research, it is assumed that we will require 80 million tonnes of fish from aquaculture by the year 2050, just to maintain the current level (not the global requirement of consumption). Although the above figures are highly simplified, in a nutshell, we will need to produce a lot of fish to feed the world over the next couple of decades. This is of course another concern to many governments, and especially a challenge for us at FAO’s Fisheries Department to ensure that such endeavours to increase production will be sustainable.

The FAO Committee on Fisheries Sub-Committee on Aquaculture at its Second Session recognized the increasing contribution of aquaculture to people’s livelihoods and to countries’ economies worldwide. It also noted the significant challenges ahead to ensure that the further development of the sector is sustainable. The Sub-Committee on Aquaculture thus requested FAO to conduct a "Prospective Analysis of Future Aquaculture Development". The goal of this analysis is to serve as basis for a discussion of the longer term direction of the Sub-Committee’s work towards sustainable aquaculture development worldwide.

A work of this magnitude is not a one-person’s brain effort; it requires the contribution of many people. The FAO Fisheries department is now conducting the Prospective Analysis through a series of consultative national and regional reviews, involving regional expert meetings and communications worldwide. You or your organization may be asked to provide information, data, or insight into this Analysis. If you are approached we hope that you will contribute the best that you can.

The final Analysis is expected to be completed by May 2006. It will be presented to the Third Session of the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture to be held in New Delhi, India in September 2006.

Cover photos:
Small-scale hatcheries in Eastern Uganda
Photo Credit: John Moehl
(see article page 25)

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal or development status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

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