A wide variety of animal and plant species are produced through aquaculture: finfish; shrimp, prawns and crabs; clams, oysters and mussels; as well as seaweeds and other aquatic plants.
Aquaculture provides nearly 50 percent, of the annual world fisheries production of 110 million tonnes of food fish in 2006. Half of all aquaculture production is finfish, a quarter is aquatic plants and the remaining quarter is made up of crustacea (such as shrimp, prawns, crabs) and molluscs such as clams, oysters and mussels.
The growth in production of the major species groups continues, although the increases seen in the past decade have been smaller than those of the 1980s and 1990s. The period 2000–06 witnessed strong growth in the production of crustaceans in particular, and in marine fish. Production growth for other species groups has begun to slow, and the overall rate of growth, while still substantial, is not of the order seen in the previous two decades.
Most cultured marine species are of relatively high commercial value, sometimes because wild stocks are small or declining. While the overall share of farmed fish in marine finfish production has stayed quite low, for the species that are farmed, aquaculture frequently dominates the market. This is the case for species such as the Japanese seabass, gilthead seabream, red drum and bastard halibut. In fact, for species such as these, the amounts now produced by aquaculture are often substantially higher than the past highest catch recorded by capture fisheries.
Production continues to differ much from region to region. In the Asia and the Pacific region, aquaculture production from China, South Asia and most of Southeast Asia consists primarily of cyprinids, while production from the rest of East Asia consists of high-value marine fish. In Latin America and the Caribbean, in the last decade, salmonids have overtaken shrimp as the top aquaculture species group as a result of
outbreaks of disease in major shrimp-producing areas and the rapid growth in salmon production in Chile. In North America, channel catfish is the top aquaculture species in the United States of America, while Atlantic and Pacific salmon dominate in Canada.
World aquatic plant production by aquaculture was 15.1 million tonnes (US$7.2 billion) in 2006. The culture of aquatic plants has increased consistently, with an average annual growth rate of 8.0 percent since 1970. In 2006, it contributed 93 percent of the world’s total supply of aquatic plants. Some 72 percent originated in China, with 10.9 million tonnes (US$5.2 billion). Virtually all of the remaining production also came from Asia: the Philippines (1.5 million tonnes), Indonesia (0.91 million tonnes), the Republic of Korea (0.77 million tonnes) and Japan (0.49 million tonnes). Japan is the second-most important aquatic-plant-producing country in terms of value (US$1.1 billion), owing to its high-priced Nori production. Japanese kelp (Laminaria japonica – 4.9 million tonnes) showed the highest production, followed by Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida – 2.4 million tonnes) and Nori (Porphya tenera – 1.5 million tonnes).