Beijing, 18 April 2002 - The role of aquaculture in
fighting hunger and poverty and promoting rural development will
be the main focus of an international meeting convened by the
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
opening in Beijing today.
According to FAO,
aquaculture can make an important contribution to poverty
alleviation, food security and social well-being, and already
does so in many developing countries. In others, however, the
potential has not yet been fully realized.
With an overall growth rate of 11 percent a year since
1984, aquaculture, including culture-based fisheries, has been
the world's fastest growing food-producing sectors for
nearly 20 years. In 1999, 42.77 million metric tons of aquatic
products (including plants) valued at US$ 53.5 billion were
produced, and more than 300 species of aquatic organisms are
today farmed globally. Approximately 90% of the total
aquaculture production is produced in developing countries, and
a large proportion of this is produced by small-scale producers
particularly in Low Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCs).
While export-oriented, industrial and
commercial aquaculture practices bring much needed foreign
exchange, revenue and employment to a country, more extensive
and integrated forms of aquaculture do not only make a
significant, grass-roots, contribution to improving livelihoods
among the poorer sectors of society but also promote efficient
use of resources and environmental conservation, according to a
paper prepared by FAO for the first session of the Sub-Committee
on Aquaculture. Representatives from governments,
inter-governmental organizations, UN agencies and international
non-governmental organizations will participate in the meeting,
which takes place at the Beijing International Convention
Centre, Beijing, China, from 18-22 April.
"The challenge for aquaculture is to help
strengthen the assets available to rural households,"
says Mr Rohana Subasinghe, Secretary of the Sub-Committee on
Aquaculture and FAO's focal point for the meeting in
Beijing. "Aquaculture provides food of high nutritional
value for households, and when small-scale farmers combine
agriculture and aquaculture they also improve their food supply,
increase their income and become better able to withstand
shocks. It decreases the risk to production, increases farm
sustainability and in general boosts rural
contributes almost a third of global fisheries production.
FAO's latest studies on future demand for, and supply of,
fish and fishery products predict a sizeable increase in demand.
The majority of this increase will result from expected economic
development, population growth and changes in eating habits.
Fish supply from marine capture fisheries in most countries is
expected to remain constant or even to decline, since catches
have either reached or are close to the maximum sustainable
yield. Hence, aquaculture and fisheries in inland waters will
play a major role in increasing future supplies of fish and
fishery products. Global growth in aquaculture is forecast to
continue in the future.
At the meeting in
Beijing the participants are to discuss sustainable aquaculture
development and the implementation of aquaculture-related
provisions of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.
Addressing the recent public debate related to the negative
environmental and social impact of aquaculture, Mr Ichiro
Nomura, Assistant Director-General, of FAO's Fisheries
Department said at the opening of the meeting:
"Historically, most aquaculture practices
around the world have been pursued with significant social,
economic and nutritional benefits, and with minimal
environmental costs. However in certain parts of the world and
in certain aquaculture sectors there have been some
inadequately-planned and inappropriately managed forms of
aquaculture that have created significant social and
environmental problems. Typically, theseimpacts often arise from
weak regulatory frameworks and the too rapid development
associated with the great commercial potential of some high
value species. It is our responsibility to take collective
measures to improve our understanding of the real impacts and
causes in order to make the sector more and more environmentally
sustainable and socially acceptable."
Mr Subasinghe says: "There is enormous
potential for aquaculture, and where the focus has mainly been
on producing more food, earning higher incomes and improving
economies, there now also is a growing awareness within the
sector and among governments of using aquaculture to ensure food
security, alleviate poverty, and promote social equity and
prosperity," but he adds that unfortunately donor
support for aquaculture development has declined in the past 10
Promoting a environmentally sound
and sustainable aquaculture development requires that
"enabling environments" are created in
particular aimed at ensuring human resource development,
institutional strengthening and capacity building at all levels.
Also improved cooperation among all stakeholders at the local,
national, regional and inter-regional levels is also imperative.
The establishment of the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture is a step
in the right direction.
on Aquaculture was established by the 24th meeting of FAO's
Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in 2001. The aim is to provide a
forum for consultation and discussion on aquaculture and to
advise COFI on technical and policy matters related to
aquaculture and on the work to be performed by the FAO in the
subject matter field of aquaculture.