Fisheries and food security

Fishing for shrimp in Mexico
FAO/20326/J. Spaull


Fish contribute a significant amount of animal protein to the diets of people worldwide. It is estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of all animal proteins come from aquatic animals. Fish is highly nutritious and serves as a valuable supplement in diets lacking essential vitamins and minerals.

The world's oceans, lakes and rivers are harvested by artisanal fishers who provide vital nourishment for poor communities, not only in Africa and Asia, but also in many parts of Latin America and islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Of the 30 countries most dependent on fish as a protein source, all but four are in the developing world.

Not only is fish a vital food, it is also a source of work and money for millions of people around the globe. In 1996, an estimated 30 million men and women were deriving an income from fisheries. An overwhelming majority of them - some 95 percent - were in developing countries.

The developing countries are also taking a growing share of the international trade in fish and fishery products. This may have both benefits and drawbacks. While the exports earn them valuable foreign exchange, the diversion of fish and fish products from local communities and developing regions can deprive needy people, including children, of a traditionally cheap, but highly nutritious food.

Related links

FAO Fisheries Department
Fisheries Department Databases and Statistics
The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 1998
Focus Archive