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Other key findings contained in SOFIA
The changing landscape of fisheries employment

The number of people earning an income from direct employment in fisheries and aquaculture increased to about 38 million in 2002, reports SOFIA.

When economic activity resulting indirectly from fisheries production is accounted for, FAO estimates that the sector supports around 200 million people world wide.

Though the ranks of fishers and fish farmers have been growing by 2.6 percent/year recently, employment in capture fisheries is stagnating in the most important fishing nations and increased job opportunities are largely being provided by aquaculture.

For example in the original 15 European Union countries (EU-15), the number of fishers has decreased by two percent/year recently. In Norway it dropped by 5 percent between 2001 and 2002 -- between 1997 and 2002 it dropped 20 percent.

New management challenges

Emergent fishing practices pose new management challenges, for example captured-based aquaculture (CBA), a practice in which young fish are caught in the wild and then penned and fattened using aquaculture techniques.

In recent years, the contribution of CBA to overall aquaculture production has grown to about 20 percent, in weight terms, of the sector's total. Much of this is due to oysters and mussels, but farming of fish species like blue fin tuna is increasingly common.

Of particular concern, according to FAO, are the impacts on wild stocks of catches of immature fish used for "seed" in CBA operations and the need to develop manufactured diets instead of raw fish.

For deep-sea fishing, a new area made possible by recent technological advances, SOFIA cautions that not enough is known about the population biology of deep-sea stocks and the impacts of fishing on benthos habitats, making responsible management difficult.

Size of global fishing fleet levelling off

Global fishing capacity -- a measure of ship numbers, sizes, and their ability to catch fish -- has started to level off but excess fishing capacity is still present in a large number of fisheries. This phenomenon -- simplified as "too many boats chasing too few fish" -- is having negative consequences on the abundance of some commercial fish stocks.

However, the fleet sizes of some major fishing nations are shrinking. This has been most pronounced in the EU-15 countries, whose combined fishing fleet decreased from 96 000 vessels in 2000 to 88 701 in 2003.

In 2003, the Russian Federation had the highest fleet capacity measured in gross tons (24 percent of the total tonnage of the world fishing fleet) followed by Japan and the United States (7% each), Spain (6%), Norway (3.5%) and Ukraine (3%). Two open register countries, Panama and Belize, accounted for 6 percent, and vessels of unknown flag made up 4.4 percent of the total.

Fish a major trade commodity

In 2002, the export value of international trade in fish and fish products grew to US$58.2 billion, representing a five percent increase relative to 2000 and a 45 percent increase since 1992.

All in all, about 38 percent of all fish produced in 2002 was traded internationally, with the share of developing countries in fishery exports contributing 55 percent (by quantity) of that total.

For many countries, and in particular for developing nations, fish trade represents a significant source of foreign currency earnings, in addition to the sector's important role in income generation, employment and food security. In a few cases, fishery exports are crucial for the economy. For example, in 2002 they represented more than half of the total value of exported commodities in Greenland, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Maldives, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Net receipts of foreign exchange by developing countries through fish trade has increased from US$12 billion in 1992 to US$17 billion in 2002 -- a figure larger than that earned from their exports of tea, rice, coffee combined.

Trade in fish is being largely driven by demand in industrialized countries, which accounted for about 82 percent of the total value of imports of fish products in 2002.

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Depleted fish stocks require recovery efforts

Other key findings contained in SOFIA

Photo credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A school of mackerel. Global fish production reached a new high of 133 million tonnes in 2002.

FAO/20326/J. Spaull

For many developing nations, fish trade represents a significant source of foreign currency earnings.

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Other key findings contained in SOFIA
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