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In 2004, fishery and aquaculture production activities provided direct employment and revenue to some 41 million people worldwide, more than triple the 13 million people estimated to have been employed in the sectors in 1970.

The highest numbers of fishers and aquaculture workers are in Asia (88 percent of the world total) followed by Africa (6.9 percent), Europe (3.6 percent), North and Central America (2.1 percent each), South America (1.7 percent) and Oceania (0.1 percent). These shares closely reflect the population shares of the different continents, the share of the population economically active in agriculture and the relative predominance of labour-intensive fisheries in some economies in Africa and Asia.

Fishing in marine and inland waters is often a part-time occupation (almost 60 percent of the total), as a result of the variations in seasonal resource availability and also because fishing is generally regulated through a series of measures that limit year-round activity (e.g. closures of selected fisheries at certain times of the year, limits on total annual catches of selected species so that commercial fishers may fish for only a few days of each month until the quota is reached) or limit the number of commercial licences and the number of fish caught per trip. Increasingly, operators have to turn to other activities for supplementary income.

Information available continues to confirm that, despite local differences, the global potential for marine capture fisheries has been reached and more rigorous plans are needed to rebuild depleted stocks and prevent the decline of those being exploited at or close to their maximum potential. By contrast, global production from aquaculture continues to grow, in terms of both quantity and its relative contribution to the world’s supply of fish for direct human consumption.

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