1. Global fisheries and aquaculture production is at a record high and the sector will play an increasingly important role in providing food and nutrition in the future.
Total fisheries and aquaculture production reached a record 214 million tonnes in 2020, comprising 178 million tonnes of aquatic animals and 36 million tonnes of algae, largely due to the growth of aquaculture, particularly in Asia. The amount destined for human consumption (excluding algae) was 20.2 kg per capita, more than double the average of 9.9 kg per capita in the 1960s. An estimated 58.5 million people were employed in the primary sector. Including subsistence and secondary sector workers, and their dependents, it is estimated that about 600 million livelihoods depend at least partially on fisheries and aquaculture. The international trade of fisheries and aquaculture products generated around USD 151 billion in 2020, down from the record high of USD 165 billion in 2018 mainly due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
2. Aquaculture has great potential to feed and nourish the world’s growing population. But growth must be sustainable.
In 2020, global aquaculture production reached a record 122.6 million tonnes, with a total value of USD 281.5 billion. Aquatic animals accounted for 87.5 million tonnes and algae comprised 35.1 million tonnes. In 2020, driven by expansion in Chile, China and Norway, global aquaculture production grew in all regions except Africa, due to a decrease in the two major producing countries, Egypt and Nigeria. The rest of Africa enjoyed 14.5 percent growth from 2019. Asia continued to dominate world aquaculture, producing 91.6 percent of the total. Aquaculture growth has often occurred at the expense of the environment. Sustainable aquaculture development remains critical to supply the growing demand for aquatic foods.
3. The world’s consumption of aquatic foods has increased significantly in recent years and will continue to rise.
Global consumption of aquatic foods (excluding algae) has increased at an average annual rate of 3.0 percent since 1961, compared with a population growth rate of 1.6 percent. On a per capita basis, consumption of aquatic food grew from an average of 9.9 kg in the 1960s to a record high of 20.5 kg in 2019, while it slightly declined to 20.2 kg in 2020. Rising incomes and urbanization, improvements in post-harvest practices and changes in dietary trends are projected to drive a 15 percent increase in aquatic food consumption, to supply on average 21.4 kg per capita in 2030.
4. Fishery resources continue to decline due to overfishing, pollution, poor management and other factors, but the number of landings from biologically sustainable stocks is on the rise.
The fraction of fishery stocks within biologically sustainable levels decreased to 64.6 percent in 2019, 1.2 percent lower than in 2017. However, 82.5 percent of the 2019 landings were from biologically sustainable stocks, a 3.8 percent improvement from 2017. Effective fisheries management has been proven to successfully rebuild stocks and increase catches within ecosystem boundaries. Improving global fisheries management remains crucial to restore ecosystems to a healthy and productive state and protect the long-term supply of aquatic foods. Rebuilding overfished stocks could increase fisheries production by 16.5 million tonnes and raise the contribution of marine fisheries to the food security, nutrition, economic growth and well-being of coastal communities.
5. Reduction of the global fishing fleet size continues, but more needs to be done to minimize overcapacity and ensure sustainability in fishing operations.
The total number of fishing vessels in 2020 was estimated at 4.1 million, a reduction of 10 percent since 2015, reflecting efforts by countries, in particular China and European countries, to reduce the global fleet size. Asia still had the largest fishing fleet, at about two-thirds of the global total. However, reductions in fleet size alone do not necessarily guarantee more sustainable outcomes, since changes in fishing efficiency can offset the sustainability gains of fleet reductions.
6. Aquatic animal production is forecast to grow another 14 percent by 2030. It is vital this growth goes hand in hand with safeguarding ecosystems, reducing pollution, protecting biodiversity and ensuring social equity.
FAO’s outlook for fisheries and aquaculture to 2030 projects an increase in production, consumption and trade, albeit at slower growth rates. Total production of aquatic animals is expected to reach 202 million tonnes in 2030, thanks mainly to sustained growth of aquaculture, projected to reach 100 million tonnes for the first time in 2027 and 106 million tonnes in 2030. World capture fisheries is projected to recover, increasing by 6 percent from 2020 to reach 96 million tonnes in 2030, as a result of improved resource management, underfished resources, and reduced discards, waste and losses.
7. Millions of lives and livelihoods are supported by aquatic food systems. Yet, many small-scale producers, especially women, are vulnerable with precarious working conditions. Building their resilience is key to sustainability and equitable development.
Of the 58.5 million people employed in the primary fisheries and aquaculture sector in 2020, 21 percent were women, rising to about 50 percent for those employed in the entire aquatic value chain (including pre- and post-harvest). Although they occupy critical roles in fisheries and aquaculture, women constitute a disproportionately large percentage of the people engaged in the informal, lowest paid, least stable and less skilled segments of the workforce, and often face gender-based constraints that prevent them from fully exploring and benefiting from their roles in the sector.
8. Aquatic food systems are a powerful solution. Blue Transformation can meet the twin challenges of food security and environmental sustainability.
FAO is committed to Blue Transformation, a visionary strategy that aims to enhance the role of aquatic food systems in feeding the world’s growing population by providing the legal, policy and technical frameworks required to sustain growth and innovation. Blue Transformation proposes a series of actions designed to support resilience in aquatic food systems and ensure fisheries and aquaculture grow sustainably while leaving no one behind, especially those communities that depend on the sector. Climate- and environment-friendly policies and practices, as well as technological innovations, are critical building blocks for Blue Transformation.
9. Blue Transformation requires a commitment from the public and private sectors if we are to achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed previously favourable trends.
Blue Transformation requires a commitment from governments, the private sector and civil society to maximize the opportunities that fisheries and aquaculture offer. Blue Transformation seeks to promote sustainable aquaculture expansion and intensification, effective management of all fisheries, and upgrading of aquatic value chains. Proactive public and private partnerships are needed to improve production, reduce food loss and waste and enhance equitable access to lucrative markets. Furthermore, inclusion of aquatic foods in national food security and nutrition strategies, together with initiatives to improve consumer awareness on their benefits, is needed to increase availability and improve access.