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1. South Pacific
2. East Asia
3. Europe
4. Latin America and the Caribbean
5. North America
6. Near East and North Africa
7. South and Southeast Asia
8. Sub-Saharan Africa

1. South Pacific1

1 This review is based on the regional study prepared by the FAO interdepartmental task force, headed by D. Doulman, Fishery Policy and Planning Division/International Institutions and Liaison Service (FIPL). The information is based on written contributions by Dr Tim Adams of the Resource Assessment Management Section, Coastal Fisheries Programme of the South Pacific Commission, Noumea, New Caledonia.

The region covers the western and central Pacific Ocean, stretching from Australia in the west to Pitcairn Island in the east. There are 16 independent states as well as dependent territories of France, the United Kingdom and the United States. Two of the states, Australia and New Zealand, are developed while the remaining states and territories are small island developing states (SIDS). The main fishing areas are the southwest and central Pacific Ocean and the eastern Indian Ocean.

Although the South Pacific region provides only about 2 percent2 of total world fishery production, the fisheries sector - together with tourism - plays a critical role in the economies of the South Pacific states and territories. The region’s inshore and offshore fisheries resources are harvested for food, for sale on national markets and, above all, for export. The South Pacific has one of the world’s richest tuna fishing grounds, and fisheries exports from the region consist almost wholly of tuna. Food fish consumption is relatively high in the region at an average of 20 kg per caput annually (live weight equivalent). Excluding Australia and New Zealand, the average for some small island developing states alone would probably be twice as high.3

2 Including fishing by foreign fleets.

3 Precise statistics on fish supplies in the Pacific islands are not available.


Marine fisheries

The total domestic marine fishery production of the region was 769 000 tonnes in 1994, making up almost 90 percent of total fish production. Almost another 1 million tonnes of tuna is harvested annually by foreign fleets. In the 1980s and early 1990s, regional production rose much more quickly than the global average, but has declined in recent years mainly as a result of restructuring in Australian commercial fisheries and changing management regimes in New Zealand (see below). The bulk of aggregate landings originate from the fishing area of the southwestern Pacific Ocean, mainly caught by New Zealand. Australia also fishes in the eastern Indian Ocean and the catch of the small island developing states (SIDS) is mainly harvested in the western central Pacific Ocean.

In the SIDS, the main types of fisheries are distinguished by their pattern of operation and the way they are administrated. For industrial fisheries, tuna is the main target and distant-water fishing fleets from several countries outside the region participate through access agreements; in fact, Pacific island national fleets take only about 6.5 percent of the total catch of around 1 million tonnes. Small-scale coastal fisheries are divided between those targeting export products and those fishing for domestic consumption. Export production includes high-value products for specific niche markets, for example sea cucumbers, snapper and mother-of-pearl shells. There is very little interaction between the export fisheries and domestic fish production, and the species exported are usually not part of the traditional local diets. However, the species exported are also retained for the local tourist industry. The species consumed locally include crustaceans, reef fish and pelagics such as tuna and swordfish.

Figure 30. Regional fish production and share of world production in percentage

Throughout the Pacific islands, little is generally known about the volumes of coastal fish catches and the status of stocks: export categorization is often confused; coastal fishery stock assessment is virtually non-existent; and most of the information used in policy-making is anecdotal in origin. SIDS are concerned about the impact of high-seas fishing by foreign fleets in the region; about 20 percent of the South Pacific region is covered by high seas that fall between the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of island states and territories.

In the Pacific island states and territories, industrial fisheries technology has tended to be of an intermediate level. A lack of trained work force and of the infrastructure necessary to support sophisticated industrial fishing operations is characteristic in most states and territories in the region. Foreign fishing fleets operating in the South Pacific are monitored by the Forum Fisheries Agency and a number of activities relating to conservation and management have been put in place for these fleets, including a regional cap on the number of purse-seine vessels permitted to operate. In coastal fisheries there are localized excess capacity problems particularly around atolls and reefs. The main challenge for states and territories in the region is to achieve sustainable resource use while ensuring the greatest socioeconomic benefit.

As would be expected of developed states, fishery technology and infrastructure in Australia and New Zealand are advanced and appropriate to a modern fisheries industry. In the trawl fisheries, these two states lead the world in deep-water trawling technology. In nearshore fisheries, harvesting methods and small vessel design also use extremely high technology - in many cases this is assisted by the extensive small boat leisure industry, which requires similar technologies and services. Australian catches include a large variety of species - scallops, lobster and orange roughy being among the more important. New Zealand catches have recently been dominated by blue grenadier, as well as squid, jack and horse mackerels and orange roughy. Several stocks have shown signs of overfishing recently. In both countries, the management of excess capacity is not a particularly contentious issue. Fleets have been reduced, particularly the prawn fleet in Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria which, through rigorous industrial management, has decreased from 292 vessels in 1977 to 125 vessels in 1993.

Inland water fisheries

Owing to the good supplies of freshwater, significant inland fisheries are restricted to the larger land masses of the region (i.e. Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea). In Australia and New Zealand, inland fisheries are valued as a recreational resource and not as a source of food security. On the other hand, in the highland areas of Papua New Guinea inland fisheries are very important owing to restricted access to marine coastal areas and limited production of other sources of animal protein. Some SIDS also support a certain level of inland water fishing as well as specialized fisheries. The total inland capture fishery harvest in the South Pacific region in 1994 was 25 102 tonnes. River eels, barramundi, freshwater molluscs and crustaceans, tilapia, gudgeons and sleepers are found in the region. Salmonids, such as rainbow and brown trout, are common inland sport fish in Australia and New Zealand.

Data for inland fisheries do not include sport and recreational fisheries, which are important in developed areas such as Australia and New Zealand. Although data on recreational fishing throughout Australia are limited, anglers now appear to be the dominant harvesters of several estuarine fish species. The growing number of recreational anglers in Australia, and probably elsewhere, could lead to both heightened conflict among user groups and greater exploitation of the limited resources.

Figure 31. Fish utilization and food supply

Figure 32. Fishery imports and exports (including intraregional trade)

N.B. FAO trade statistics available only from 1976.

Aquaculture production has risen from some 20 000 tonnes in 1984 to almost 75 000 tonnes in 1994, mainly owing to increases in New Zealand and Australia. Excluding the two major producers, the remaining Pacific states and territories contributed a mere 2 500 tonnes in 1994. The major increase from a single species was from mussel cultivation in New Zealand, which grew from 9 800 tonnes in 1984 to 47 000 tonnes in 1994. Other significant, rapid increases have been observed in the culture of salmon in New Zealand and of Salmo salar in Australia. Oysters and pearl oysters are other important species. Most aquaculture production is derived from coastal aquaculture, even though the physical potential for freshwater aquaculture development could be considerable in larger countries.


Apart from in Australia and New Zealand, fish is a culturally and nutritionally important source of food throughout the region. The diet of the Pacific islanders depends heavily on fish and most states and territories derive a high proportion of their animal protein supplies from fish, ranging up to a high of 69 percent for Kiribati and with almost all states deriving over 25 percent from this source. Actual fish consumption is difficult to estimate, however, because of the limited statistics available and the unknown contribution from unrecorded household catches. The figures for per caput food fish supply provided by FAO probably underestimate overall consumption. These figures have shown a steady upward trend over the years and range up to 100 kg per head per year (live weight equivalent) for Tokelau. The regional average as a whole was 20 kg per person in 1994, but the average for the island countries alone - excluding Australia and New Zealand - is at least twice as high.

Fisheries exports from the region consist almost wholly of tuna, which is the South Pacific’s most important development resource. Canneries in American Samoa, Fiji and the Solomon Islands export tuna at slightly higher prices than their Southeast Asian counterparts, but the latter two states benefit from African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) status in the European Union (EU) market.4 Exports of fishery products from Australia and New Zealand are encouraged by sophisticated fish-processing industries geared to exporting high-value products to discriminating markets.

4 The EU has a trade agreement with 69 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. However, with the new General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO) agreement, these privileges will be withdrawn gradually. See Box 22 on p. 103.
Figure 33. Fishery production by species categories

Figure 34. Fishery imports and exports for major trading countries in 1994


Most national fisheries administrations in the Pacific islands are small and fragile with only a limited range of technical expertise. High priorities are assigned by governments to policies aimed at institutional strengthening and capacity building because of the importance of fisheries among these countries. In the early 1990s, action was taken to restructure the national fisheries administrations in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. In each case, national fisheries authorities with semi-commercial status were established and these have facilitated a more prominent participatory role for the private sector in fisheries administration, including private-sector financial contributions to the costs of administration and research.

The socio-economic development of many South Pacific island states and territories is closely tied to the fortunes of regional fisheries. Hence, national development strategies and planning invariably involve plans for developing and/or strengthening participation in the fisheries sector. In addition, for economic security reasons the South Pacific states and territories place a high priority on the development of national industries (fleet and processing) as they consider that domestic industry affords them a greater degree of control over the sector. The high level of participation of foreign vessels in the tuna fisheries is seen as an intermediate solution, and the states and territories generally aspire to develop their fishery resources themselves. In the meantime, the Pacific islands have the objective of increasing the revenues from licensing fees in order to raise what they consider a more reasonable financial return from the exploitation of their resources. Most of the South Pacific states and territories also seek to diversify activities in the fisheries sector by encouraging the establishment of new industries, trying to integrate the fisheries sector more closely into the expanding tourist industry and, where possible, promoting inland fisheries and aquaculture.

Regional fisheries cooperation in the South Pacific is well-established, successful and, in many cases, a cornerstone of national foreign policy. States recognize that individually they are weak because they are small and can easily be manipulated in fisheries matters. It was primarily this recognition that led to the establishment, in 1989, of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), which is mandated to assist its member countries to coordinate their fisheries policies and activities.5 The South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP) assists member countries in respect of the adverse impact of human activities on fishes in coastal fisheries and, for reef and lagoon fishes, the South Pacific Commission (SPC) Coastal Fisheries Programme is developing a mechanism for greater harmonization of national policies. SPC also compiles fisheries data and provides scientific assessments in support of FFA’s conservation and management work. In addition, after the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, the independent island states pooled their effective capacity for managing tuna fisheries probably to a greater extent than any other region. The Pacific island states, which generally lack any capacity for distant-water fishing, have taken a conservationist rather than an exploitative approach to the management of highly migratory species.

5 The members of the FFA are Australia, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Is-lands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
In Australia and New Zealand, most fisheries are managed by licences and/or quotas and the import of vessels from abroad is monitored; hence the fleet is at, or around, the optimum size for harvesting the available resources. This is greatly aided by industry’s involvement in fisheries management. The reduction in the fleet has mainly been brought about by the buy-back of existing licences. In New Zealand, the introduction of individual transferable quota (ITQ) systems has greatly slowed down the pace of fishery expansion and led to greater fisheries rationalization. Finally, in both Australia and New Zealand, ITQs have enhanced economic efficiency within the fisheries sector.

The issue of by-catch discards is of most concern in trawl fisheries, but these are found only in Papua New Guinea’s Gulf of Papua shrimp fisheries, which has a by-catch of around 80 or 90 percent of the total, and very recently in the experimental scallop fishery in the Lagon Nord off New Caledonia (Box 6).

Many inshore and inland aquatic resources have declined as a result of overfishing and habitat degradation. Efforts to reverse this situation include the construction of artificial reefs, stocking, habitat improvement and the introduction of exotic species. Aquatic environments have been stressed and degraded by increased population growth (Box 7).

Discards in the South Pacific

In their artisanal and subsistence fisheries, Pacific islanders discard, or return, very little of their catch, except tabu fish (such as remora or shark in certain islands) and fish that are known to have a high probability of conferring ciguatera or some other toxin. Of the fish that are eaten, there is also a very high recovery rate of edible material; only the bones, scales, gills and some of the viscera are discarded. Mollusc shells (apart from mother-of-pearl) and crustacean carapaces are normally considered waste, and middens of such fishery waste are the prime source of archaeological information about pre-contact Pacific island populations.

The discard of by-catches is a consideration for the distant-water albacore long-line fisheries and, to a lesser extent, the skip-jack and yellow-fin purse-seine fisheries. Small-scale long-liners running short trips out of Pacific island ports generally discard only sharks, and this to a lessening extent as a demand is being created. Any unsaleable fish from Pacific island pole and line tuna fisheries are taken home by the crew or, in previous years in Fiji, given to coastal villages to compensate for bait-fishing access. In Honiara, there are now important skipjack sales to the local fish market, contributing to more moderate fish prices and enhancing the urban diet of nearby villages.

Trawl fisheries, which often generate large unwanted by-catches, are found in the Pacific islands only in Papua New Guinea’s Gulf of Papua (shrimp) and, very recently, in the Lagon Nord off New Caledonia (scallop). By-catches from the Gulf of Papua shrimp-trawl fishery are around 80 to 90 percent of the total catch, while the New Caledonia scallop-trawl fishery is still experimental (and most of the by-catch is likely to be marketable). As a general rule, Pacific island shallow-water substrates are too coral-strewn for trawling, and no fisheries (apart from very localized beds of precious coral) have been identified in abyssal substrates.

Source: South Pacific Commission. 1996.

Enhancement and rehabilitation of inshore fisheries

Many of the inshore and inland aquatic resources of the South Pacific region have declined as a result of overfishing and habitat degradation around urban or industrial areas. Overfishing of inshore and lagoon areas was identified as a significant issue in nearly every state and territory in the South Pacific and efforts to increase production or profit from inland and inshore have included the construction of artificial reefs, the stocking of water bodies and coastal reef areas, habitat improvement and the introduction of exotic species. Nearly 30 exotic aquatic species have been introduced to Australia and nearly 20 to New Zealand. In Papua New Guinea, over 30 species have been introduced and there is still an active programme to stock the Sepik River with exotic fishes. Smaller island states have transferred or introduced tilapia (Oreochromis spp.) and the molluscs trochus (Trochus niloticus) and green snail (Turbo spp.). States and territories realize the potential dangers of inappropriate introductions and are adopting or have adopted legislation or guidelines to regulate the use of exotic species.

Many species of commercially important molluscs are prone to overexploitation because of slow recruitment and the ease of harvest. The giant clam and its relatives (Tridacna spp. and Hippopus hippopus) have been classified as threatened species by the World Conservation Union for many of the islands and stocking and transplantation projects have been attempted for species of giant clam (Tridacnidea) and for trochus on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and in the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, the Federated States of Micronesia and other Pacific islands. The largest hatcheries for Tridacna enhancement are at the Coastal Aquaculture Centre in the Solomon Islands, the Micronesian Mariculture Development Centre in Palau and James Cook University in Australia. Green snail, which has been introduced to French Polynesia from Vanuatu, is being considered for translocation to other areas within the region and as a candidate for stocking coral reefs with hatchery-raised juveniles.

Artificial reefs have been used to increase habitat diversity, thereby increasing or congregating species of commercially important fish and shellfish in areas such as South Australia and Queensland. Using materials of convenience, such as old tyres and derelict vessels, the artificial reefs have increased the catch for recreational fishermen and sport divers.

Source: South Pacific Commission, 1996.


Fish and fishery products will continue to play a fundamental social and economic role in the South Pacific. Fish for human consumption will remain the most important source of animal protein for many Pacific island communities, in particular for the most disadvantaged ones. The fisheries sector will be one of the primary vehicles for promoting economic development in the South Pacific and, for some states and territories, the sector will be the main engine of economic development. Few areas or regions of the world will depend more on the fisheries sector for development than the South Pacific.

The region’s fisheries resources are probably capable of meeting a somewhat increased future demand for fish, although it is likely that additional amounts of pelagic species will have to be consumed, particularly in urban areas and in other areas of high population concentration. Marketing and distribution systems will need to be improved in order to move fish more quickly and efficiently both among states and territories in the region and within states and territories themselves. The promotion of sustainable fisheries and the implementation of regional and national arrangements to ensure that fisheries resources are utilized rationally are major social and economic policy issues in the South Pacific and most states and territories are attempting to deal with overfishing of inshore resources.

States and territories in the South Pacific recognize that effective and sustainable regulation of both inshore and offshore fisheries resources is essential for long-term food and socio-economic security.

The potential for aquaculture development varies significantly among subregions. Physical, biotechnical, economic, institutional and other issues generally disturb the development of aquaculture in the South Pacific, although the potential does exist for the selective and careful development of production for food and economic purposes.

With regard to trade, Australia and New Zealand are speciality product exporters to Japan, the United States and Europe. Exports have expanded in recent years, especially for New Zealand fishery products (e.g. mussels) and this is expected to continue. The forecast for New Zealand’s and - to a lesser extent - Australia’s seafood exports is positive, provided that sound management practices are enforced for deep-water species, such as orange roughy, which grow slowly.

In the SIDS, the forecast is for a contraction of fish imports and a small increase in exports, mainly tuna. Fresh sashimi-grade tuna is already transported by air to the Japanese market, but the distances involved and other problems will continue to hamper access to this lucrative market. Papua New Guinea might become an important exporter of canned tuna to the European market, once its cannery is fully operational - the advantages of the Papua New Guinea industry is that it is close to the resource and that the quality of the tuna is excellent.

2. East Asia1

1 This review is based on the regional study prepared by the FAO interdepartmental task force, headed by J. Cortez, Fishery Policy and Planning Division/International Institutions and Liaison Service (FIPL).

The region encompasses the marine and inland water jurisdictions of the following states: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Mongolia, China, the Republic of Korea, the east coast area of the Russian Federation (the fisheries of the Russian Federation are summarized in the regional study on Europe on p. 64) and Taiwan (Province of China). The review will concentrate on the three most important fishing nations - Japan, China and the Republic of Korea - although the figures given for the region cover all countries, unless otherwise specified.

The seas within this region consist of the northwest Pacific Ocean including the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea.

Fish production is an important economic activity in the East Asian coastal states. The region is one of the world’s largest fish-producing areas with a total production of 36.6 million tonnes in 1994.2 The East China Sea, the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan and the eastern offshore waters of Japan are among the most intensively fished waters in the world, and aquaculture production in the region contributed more than 70 percent of the total global volume. Fish consumption is generally high, exceeding meat consumption in some of the countries; annual food fish supply amounts to 21 kg per caput on average (live weight equivalent). The region is an active trading partner on the international market and a net importer (in both volume and value).

2 Including distant-water fishing by the fleets of the region and Poland’s distant-water fishing in this area.

Marine fisheries

Marine fisheries landings by local fleets in the northwest Pacific reached a total of 22.6 million tonnes in 1994. Another 1.9 million tonnes were fished in other marine waters. The main fishing nations are China, followed by Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Figure 35. Regional fish production and share of world production in percentage

Fisheries in the East China Sea are usually small-scale, although larger trawlers are sometimes used. Tuna, mackerel, shrimp, milkfish, sea breams, croakers and shellfish of various kinds are the main species harvested. The demersal fish resources of the Yellow Sea have been exploited by trawlers from China, the Republic of Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Japan for years. The main resources are sea bream, croakers, lizard fish, prawns, cutlass fish, horse mackerel, squids and flounders. All species are overfished, and the catch of particularly valuable species has declined recently. The Sea of Japan has a range of pelagic and demersal species, including herring, pilchard, Alaska pollock, mackerels and bluefin tuna, but these resources have gradually been overexploited. Squid fishing is carried out in the central part of the sea, salmon fishing in the shoal areas and crustacean trapping in the deeper parts. The sea is heavily fished by fleets from Japan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Total marine production in the region has decreased over recent years, although 1994 landings represented a slight increase compared with the year before. The decrease is mainly associated with the decline of pelagic fish landings, in particular the Japanese pilchard; although it does not seem to be related to fishing but rather caused by decadal-scale changes in the marine environment (Box 8). However, other resources, particularly Alaska pollock, show low levels caused by heavy exploitation.

The two largest fleets in the region are the Japanese and the Republic of Korea’s, which, in 1994, had 2 423 and 1 012 vessels, respectively, of a gross registered tonnage (GRT) over 100 GRT/vessel. The Chinese fleet consisted of 253 vessels of over 100 GRT in the same year. In the Republic of Korea, the fishing industry faces difficulties from rising labour costs and the depletion of marine resources, and in some fisheries, such as the anchovy dragnet fishery and the Alaskan pollock fishery, high degrees of automation have been introduced. In addition, the government plans to adjust fishing capacity in national waters by reducing the overall tonnage by 137 000 GRT by the year 2004 although, over recent years, the total tonnage has increased somewhat despite the reduction in the number of vessels.3 In Japan, the number of vessels has also decreased during the 1990s, together with the number of fishermen and fishing enterprises. In China, fishing capacity in domestic waters has expanded far more than production. For example, the total power of Chinese fishing vessels operating in the East China Sea increased by a factor of about 7.6 times between the 1960s and the early 1990s, while catches only increased 2.6 times.

3 National Fisheries University of Pusan. 1996. Fisheries country profile. Pusan, Republic of Korea.

The heavy exploitation of most marine domestic fishery resources in Chinese waters and an emerging consumer market provided the impetus for China to develop a distant-water fishing fleet, first introduced in 1985. The Republic of Korea and Taiwan, Province of China, take most of their catches from local waters but have also extended their activities into distant water lately. In 1995, landings of the Republic of Korea’s distant-water fishing fleet were 0.9 million tonnes.

Japanese high sea catches decreased from 2.1 million tonnes in 1970 to 0.9 million tonnes in 1993 and are expected to decline further as Japanese fishing companies find it difficult to compete with imported fish and fish products.

The Japanese pilchard fishery

The most dramatic resource variation in the region has concerned the pilchard (Sardinops melanostictus) in the northwestern Pacific off Japan. This fishery grew rapidly in the 1930s’ to become the largest single-species fishery in the world at that time. In the early 1940s, however, the pilchard population collapsed abruptly and remained extremely depressed for nearly three decades. Then, in the mid-1970s, the stock suddenly exploded into a rapid rebuilding phase that led to the 1980s’ peak of catches that were over three times as large (5.4 million tonnes in 1988) as the peak catches before the earlier collapse in the 1940s had been. Today, the fish population is going through a fast decline for the second time, having sustained intensive fishing for a considerable period. In 1994, less than 1.3 million tonnes were landed (mainly by Japan but also by China and the Republic of Korea). In 1996, there were no signs of recovery; the population continued to decline and is now at a very low stock level. Although spawning levels of Japanese anchovy were very high over the last few years, the new entry of juvenile stock was very low. Japanese researchers are therefore convinced that the fluctuations in pilchard abundance are not the result of overfishing but rather of climatic change, which seems to have adversely affected reproductive success in recent years.

The exact nature of the linkage of climatic variation to reproductive success is not currently understood. However, there appears to be a degree of synchrony in the timing of multi-year runs of good or poor reproductive success among many of the largest fish populations in widely separated parts of the Pacific, as well as in several other ocean areas of the world. Other extremely important fishery stocks showing a tendency to co-vary, either in the same phase or in opposite phase, with the Japanese pilchard on these multi-year timescales include sardines off western South America and southwestern Africa, Peruvian anchoveta, Alaska pollock and several salmon species in the northern Pacific. These periods of population growth or decline are in turn correlated with several climatic indices including global mean temperature and El Niño southern oscillation index, leading to the conclusion that the population expansions and contractions may be driven by climate variability. (See also Box 13 on p. 74.)

Inland water fisheries

Production from freshwater capture fisheries in the region continues to be dominated by China, which generated over 1 million tonnes out of a regional total of 1.4 million tonnes in 1994. However, environmental degradation combined with overfishing have affected capture fisheries in all major Chinese rivers, particularly in stretches downstream of significant pollution sources. This has resulted in significantly reduced yields and the loss of many commercially valuable species. In contrast to the declining contribution of river fisheries, increased yields are being achieved through intensified exploitation of natural lakes and reservoirs, mainly from enhancement measures such as improved stocking, fertilization, the control of unwanted species, habitat modification and environmental engineering of the water bodies.


Total regional aquaculture production amounted to 18.4 million tonnes and valued US$22.8 billion in 1994, representing 73 and 57 percent of the total world production, respectively. During the period 1984 to 1994, the subsector demonstrated a compounded yearly growth rate of 10 percent in volume and 11 percent in value.

China is by far the most important producer, representing over 60 percent of world aquaculture production - 15.4 million tonnes in 1994. Finfish production is concentrated in China, where it is cultivated at low stocking densities within semi-intensive, polyculture, pond-based farming systems. The main species cultured are cyprinids such as silver carp, grass carp, common carp, bighead carp and, more recently, tilapia.

Chinese production patterns contrast sharply with finfish production in Japan, which is restricted almost entirely to high-value carnivorous marine and diadromous species grown in intensive farming systems. The two major species are yellowtail and red sea bream. Aquatic plants constitute the second most important species group by weight and value. Molluscs and crustaceans are also produced.

Sea ranching is also practised in Japan, where about 80 species are targeted by sea farming (including some that are under technical development). The main species ranched are silver sea bream, bastard halibut, kuruma prawn, swimming crab, abalone and sea urchin.

Growing environmental concern is an increasingly important isssue for future aquaculture development in the region (Box 9).

Figure 36. Fish utilization and food supply

Figure 37. Fishery imports and exports (including intraregional trade)

N.B. FAO trade statistics available only from 1976

Fish consumption in the region is very high by international standards; average annual food fish supply is 21 kg per person (live weight eqivalent) and fish provides about one-quarter of the total animal protein intake. Particularly in Japan, the tradition of eating fish is very strong and fish is generally more important than meat in the diet, even though younger generations today tend to eat more meat than before. The per caput food fish supply in Japan is over 70 kg per year. Although fresh fish is preferred, demand is diversified and includes an increasing share of both traditional and new processed products. At present, about two-thirds of the fishery production is used as raw material for the processing industry but both the fishing and the processing industries are being rationalized and operations are increasingly relocated to foreign countries through joint ventures and other arrangements because of lower labour costs and preferential access to raw material.

During the last decade, imports have expanded considerably and international trade in the region focuses on Japan, the world’s major importer of fish and fishery products. About one-third of the world fish trade goes to Japan (in value terms) and Japanese imports of fishery products increased fourfold over the decade to 1994. The main imports were shrimp and prawn, fresh and frozen tuna, crab and salmon (in value) and shrimp, prawn and tuna (in quantity).

Statistics for the Republic of Korea and Hong Kong show per caput food fish supplies of about 50 to 55 kg per year. In the Republic of Korea, captured fish is generally preferred to cultured fish and fresh fish is generally preferred to processed products. Nevertheless, the number of processing plants in the country seems to be increasing.4 The Republic of Korea is both a major importer and an exporter. In the past, high duties have protected the fishing industry from imports of cephalopods and other fishery products and, as a result, the price of squid was among the highest in the world. However, as of 1995, the Republic of Korea has liberalized over 300 product items and will open its markets fully for fish products by 1997.

4 National Fisheries University of Pusan, op. cit., footnote 3, p. 58.

Environmental issues in aquaculture

Environmental factors continue to play a key role in aquaculture development throughout the region. For example, shrimp farmers in China recently suffered dramatic losses in production owing to disease outbreaks from poor water and soil conditions in their ponds which caused stress to farmed stock, the introduction of pathogens and very high densities of farming units in certain locations. Intensification trends in resource use and production are increasingly apparent in Chinese freshwater aquaculture, raising concerns over the impending release of wastes.

Environmental problems with coastal aquaculture practices in Hong Kong, Japan and the Republic of Korea concern mainly high densities of cages and rafts in water bodies with limited water exchange. However, many aquafarmers in the region are being affected by increasing aquatic pollution from other activities. Shellfish farmers in the Republic of Korea, for example, have to face recurrent harmful algal blooms, sometimes resulting in anoxic bottom waters and toxin contamination of their products. The increasing pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs in China is causing considerable economic losses to aquafarmers and fishermen. Environmental issues in aquaculture development are receiving considerable attention in the countries concerned, and numerous efforts are under way to ensure more sustainable development of the sector.

Sources: ADB/NACA. 1996. Aquaculture sustainability action plan. Regional study and workshop on aquaculture sustainability and the environment (RETA 5534). Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA). Bangkok, Thailand, NACA. 21 pp.; Bagarinao, T.U. and Flores, E.E.C., eds. 1995. Towards sustainable aquaculture in Southeast Asia and Japan. Proceedings of the Seminar-Workshop on Aquaculture Development in Southeast Asia, Iloilo City, the Philippines, 26 to 28 July 1994. Iloilo, the Philippines, SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department. 254 pp.; FAO/NACA. 1995. Regional Study and Workshop on the Environmental Assessment and Management of Aquaculture Development in Asia-Pacific. NACA Environment and Aquaculture Development Series No. 1. FAO and Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific. Bangkok, Thailand, NACA. 492 pp.

In China, the mean per caput supply was reported as 10 kg in 1990, but consumption has probably increased significantly since then. However, important variations exist within the country; in the southern parts, particularly in Guangdong province, the average is 43 kg, whereas fish consumption in the isolated areas of the northeast is negligible. Domestic demand is largely met by freshwater pond products, in particular various carp species; in 1993, over half of Chinese fish production originated from culture fisheries. The current increases in disposable income in China are creating market opportunities for fish imports. One of the main fish imports at present is Alaska pollock from the Russian Federation, which is processed and re-exported to the United States and Germany. Shrimp is also imported for processing and re-export to the United States.


The restricted circulation of ocean waters into and out of the East Asian seas apparently makes them particularly sensitive to environmental changes from human or natural causes. In the Republic of Korea, industrial complexes near coastal areas and an increase in the influx of sewage from the urban zones are harming coastal fishing grounds. Moreover, land reclamation projects are reducing the fishing ground areas and oil pollution as well as red tides have occurred, particularly in the south.5 Similar developments are taking place also in other parts of the region.

5 Ibid.

Providing more than a third of the world’s fish landings also means that the region produces a similar amount of by-catch. However, the proportion of the by-catch that is discarded is likely to be lower than this, particularly in China; although there is very little detailed information available on this issue.

Figure 38. Fishery production by species categories

Figure 39. Fishery imports and exports for major trading countries in 1994

International fisheries issues in the region have been dealt with through bilateral fisheries agreements, such as those between Japan and the Republic of Korea and between Japan China. The Russian Federation has established an exclusive economic zone (EEZ); so has Japan for its east coast, but this EEZ is not applied to China and the Republic of Korea. In the region, efforts to avoid unnecessary controversies over potential maritime jurisdictional overlaps are evident. Regional cooperation (except for Taiwan, Province of China) is also carried out through the newly reconstituted Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission (APFIC), a regional fisheries body established under FAO. Likewise, coastal states (except the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) have become members of the Fisheries Working Group of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

In the Republic of Korea, the Fisheries Act was amended in 1995 to accommodate new international management schemes and reflect the relevant provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international rules and provisions related to fisheries. In response to the increasing regulation of the high seas and the deterioration of resources in the waters around the Republic of Korea, the government initiated a fisheries restructuring project in 1994 to reduce the number of fishing vessels. In addition, to tackle environmental degradation, the government has designated a number of “fisheries resource conservation areas” and increased research efforts on pollution-related matters.6

6 Ibid.

Japan has a unique and comprehensive system of fisheries management. Coastal and inland fisheries are regulated by fisheries cooperatives through a system of fishing rights; offshore and long-distance fisheries are managed through licensing. The Fisheries Law and the Fisheries Resource Protection Law form the legal basis for fisheries management with broad authority given to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, as well as to the prefectural governors. In the future, improved fishery management is expected to focus on increasing the production of high-value species, using traditional management techniques (regulation of effort or catch, closed seasons and areas), community-based management and innovative approaches to remedying damaged environments to favour habitat, growth and the recruitment of preferred high-value species. Co-management and regional cooperation will also be stressed, and the introduction of EEZs could be expected. Japan will also probably have a more integrated view of the whole fishing and processing industry as links among markets, trade and resources become stronger and more apparent.

China has adopted a pragmatic approach towards developing its fisheries institutions and administration, and is developing managerial capabilities. This is being further strengthened by appropriate legal provisions such as the Fisheries Laws and Regulations for the Conservation and Propagation of Fishery Resources. China appears to face the same fishery and coastal zone management issues as other countries in the region, including the need to create alternative employment opportunities for inshore fishers, intersectoral competition, environmental pollution and habitat destruction. In addition, as provincial governments become more autonomous, interprovincial coordination will be urgently required to resolve conflicts over shared resources and environmental degradation.


Fish consumption in the region should stay high and even increase further in some areas (in both volume and per caput levels) along with population growth and improved consumer purchasing power.

An exception to this may be Japan, where fish consumption is already high and population growth close to zero. Nevertheless, the composition of the Japanese fish consumption basket is expected to continue to change from lower-value to higher-value products, which could include more “ready-to-eat” products as well as products sold through fast food outlets. The sophisticated nature of fish consumption attitudes has important bearings on domestic production strategies which need to focus on those types of products where Japanese producers have a clear competitive advantage over foreign suppliers, for example, ranched products which can be marketed as “fish from the wild” rather than cultured products. Sea ranching is expected to become the preferred form of culturing finfish species. Future fisheries development in Japan will be guided largely by market factors, especially the ability of the domestic industry to compete with foreign suppliers. Japanese fisheries are unlikely to grow significantly over the coming decades. Modest production gains from culture and ranching are likely to be offset by a further decline in the long-distance fleets, but the country will continue to rely on imports to satisfy its high demand for fishery products.

Similar consumption patterns can be seen to some extent in the Republic of Korea, which is currently liberalizing its trade regulations on fishery products and is one of the places where imports could be expected to increase in the future. However, at the same time, the Republic of Korea remains an important exporter. For domestic production, priority is given to enhancing the utilization of national fishing grounds through the construction of artificial reefs and fingerling releases. Aquaculture is also becoming a more important source of fishery products.7

7 Ibid.

In China, the expected continuation of both rapid economic growth and expanding fish production will enable per caput consumption to increase further. Significant growth potential exists for freshwater aquaculture, principally through the rehabilitation of existing ponds, the utilization of water-logged areas and the vast surface areas of paddy fields. The growing number of hatcheries will enable this potential to be realized. Traditional marine capture fisheries do not appear to offer any significant growth potential. Coastal fish resources need to be carefully managed and future increases in landings will probably depend on distant-water fishing. However, strong economic growth is expected to generate enough purchasing power to satisfy any domestic demand-supply gap with imports.

3. Europe1

1 This review is based on the regional study prepared by the FAO interdepartmental task force, headed by R. Grainger, Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit (FIDI).

The region covers two main groups of countries: 1. The European industrialized countries comprising the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), i.e. the European Economic Area (EEA), as well as Malta, Andorra and Monaco; and 2. the former centrally planned economies - or transition countries - of Eastern and Central Europe including the Russian Federation and the other European republics of the former USSR. The main seas neighbouring the countries of the region are the northeast Atlantic (including the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea), the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the northwest Pacific (the Bering Sea and the Okhotsk Sea).

Fish production is important to many countries of the European region, in particular as a foreign exchange generator in the transition states and as a source of employment in coastal communities. Regional fleets produce 16 percent of world fishery production volume, i.e. 17.2 million tonnes. Per caput fish consumption varies from high average levels in some of the Mediterranean and Nordic countries, where there are food fish supplies of over 30 kg per year (live weight equivalent), to 10 to 15 kg per year in some of the transition and inland countries. The region is a net importer, by both value and volume.


Marine fisheries

Total regional marine catches amounted to 15.3 million tonnes in 1994.2 The fleets of the industrialized countries caught about 70 percent of this total. The production of the western subregion is dominated by catches from the northeast Atlantic, where herring, sand eels, capelin, cod, mackerel, pilchard, sprat, horse mackerel, blue whiting and saithe are among the main commercial species. Further north, in the northeast Arctic and Barents seas as well as in Icelandic and Faeroe Island fishing waters, cod and capelin are the most common species fished, together with herring, haddock and saithe. In the Baltic Sea, cod, herring, sprat and salmon are fished.

2 Including distant-water fishing production.

Figure 40. Regional fish production and share of world production in percentage

Nevertheless, many demersal groundfish stocks have been intensively exploited during the last decades and some of the stocks are now considered to be outside the safe biological limits. Small pelagic resources are generally less affected. In addition, pollution has caused environmental deterioration in some coastal areas of the north Atlantic. With regard to salmon in the Baltic Sea, wild stocks are threatened by disease and competition from reared stocks (Box 10). In the Mediterranean, most demersal stocks are also fully to overexploited. Consequently, in addition to fishing in nearby waters, the European Union (EU) fleets increasingly seek access to other countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs) for their distant-water vessels and budget funds for access agreements have been increased recently.3 Iceland and Norway also carry out fishing under a number of bilateral agreements.

3 Fishing News International. 1996. Review of Europe’s fishing deal.

The main fishing areas of the eastern subregion are the Okhotsk and Bering seas in the northern Pacific Ocean. The most important species in the northern Pacific is the Alaska pollock, although landings in 1994 of 2 million tonnes were only half of those in 1986. Fishing by the fleets of the transition countries is also carried out in the Barents Sea, mainly by Russian vessels fishing cod, and in the Baltic Sea by Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and the Russian Federation.

Total catches in the Black Sea dropped drastically from 913 000 tonnes in 1988 to 277 000 tonnes in 1992,4 but recovered to 511 000 tonnes in 1994. The reason for the decline seems to be a change in the ecosystem caused by a combination of uncontrolled and heavy fishing, nutrient input from rivers and littoral zones, as well as the introduction of exotic species.

4 The total catch of the Black Sea includes catches by countries outside the region.

Fleet technology in the industrialized countries is very high and there has been a shift from labour-intensive to more capital-intensive vessels. Nevertheless, investment in demersal fishing vessels has generally decreased recently. Instead, investments have been directed towards pelagic fisheries and the processing industry. There is a critical overcapacity in the European fisheries; a recent EU review indicates that a reduction of 40 percent in overall fleet capacity is needed in order to downscale the size to match the available fish resources.5

5 Report of the Group of Independent Experts to Advise the European Commission on the Fourth Generation of the Multi-annual Guidance Programmes. 1996.

The marine production of the former centrally planned economies and the former USSR (the eastern subregion of Europe) decreased from about 10 million tonnes yearly at the beginning of the 1980s, to only 4.5 million tonnes in 1994. The main fishing nation, the Russian Federation, represented 3.5 million tonnes of the total in 1994. An important reason for this drastic decline is the reduction in distant-water fishing activities; the former USSR, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria used to have large distant-water fleets and, in 1983, about 40 percent of the production of these countries originated from distant-water fishing but, in 1993, this share had decreased to 20 percent. The fleets of the transition countries are generally old and in great need of modernization. The Russian Federation started an ambitious programme of fleet renovation in 1994 and there have been some signs of recovery, with the Russian Federation and Poland increasing their catches by about 20 percent in 1995.

BOX 10
Baltic Sea wild salmon stocks

A higher incidence of fish disease is often observed in areas of oxygen depletion of bottom water and proximity to river outlets but this is usually on too small a scale to affect the economically most important fish stocks. One exception that has come to light, however, might be salmon in the Baltic Sea. A syndrome called M74 is creating mass mortality in the hatching salmon fry populations, only a small percentage of which survive, which means many more spawners have to reach the rivers for spawning than previously in order to keep the year-class sizes at the average level. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) therefore recommends a total closure of Baltic salmon fisheries that take wild salmon. The causes of M74 syndrome are not known, but it seems to be associated with organochlorine in the female salmon and nutritional factors are also implicated. A complication in the attempt to protect wild salmon is that, if reared salmon are not caught, they might swamp the wild salmon rivers. Reared salmon constitute between 80 and 90 percent of the total biomass of salmon in the Baltic Sea and most of the time they are mixed with wild salmon on the fishing grounds.

Source: ICES. 1996. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee on Fishery Management, 1995. ICES Cooperative Research Report.

Inland water fisheries

Capture fishery production from the region’s inland waters has decreased by almost 50 percent during the last decade, falling from 820 000 tonnes in 1984 to 420 000 tonnes in 1994. The main species include rainbow trout, Azov Sea sprat and common carp. It should be remembered, however, that official data for inland water capture fisheries may in many cases be underestimated. Production from subsistence and recreational fisheries is seldom accurately reflected in the statistics and it is likely that production from these sectors plays a rather important role for food supplies in the transition countries. Nevertheless, commercial catches have declined owing to political changes and the collapse of infrastructure and distribution systems in the former centrally planned economies. Pollution, infrastructure projects and competition for water resources from other sectors have also had a negative impact on fisheries production. All countries in the eastern subregion used to manage their inland fisheries through stocking and fertilization programmes to enhance capture fisheries. In the Russian Federation, this activity is still being subsidized, whereas it appears that the practice has been discontinued in other countries owing to the economic difficulties inherent in the transitional period.

In the industrialized countries, inland waters are managed primarily for sport fisheries; commercial fishing is secondary except in the large lakes. The stocking of selected species, such as rainbow trout, stringent antipollution laws and rehabilitation programmes are common components of the management programme for these fisheries.


In 1994, regional aquaculture production accounted for 6 and 10 percent of total global production in quantity and value, respectively. In 1994, 1.5 million tonnes were produced at a value of US$3.8 billion, of which 1.3 million tonnes came from the industrialized countries and 195 000 tonnes from the transition states. In the former, about half of production is molluscs6 and the second largest component is diadromous fish, i.e. salmon and rainbow trout. In fact, the aquaculture sector has undergone a revolution because of the success of, in particular, salmon farming.

6 It should be noted that for molluscs only about 10 percent of the gross weight is actually consumed; the greater part of the production volume is shell.

In the eastern part of the region, total production fell by half between 1991 and 1992 owing to economic and social difficulties when the centrally planned system collapsed. This decline was felt most in the countries of the former USSR; production in Hungary, Poland and former Czechoslovakia remained more stable. Farming of carp (Chinese and common carp) and other cyprinids is most common even though the production of higher-value species is being introduced and a further switch could be expected when production levels revive.

Figure 41. Fish utilization and food supply


Almost all European industrialized countries have some kind of processing industry such as canning, smoking, freezing or otherwise curing of fish. There is also a fishmeal industry in the region. The production of convenience food is the fastest growing sector of the EU fish processing industry and large retailers in the market are active in introducing new products. There is also a trend in some countries towards more fresh and chilled fish and supermarkets are increasing their market share of fish sales.

In the transition countries, much of the processing industry needs modernization and new investments. During the Soviet era, some of the coastal countries and republics had an important processing industry (e.g. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) of which only a portion is used today, following the fall in raw material supply. Moreover, in the past, the distribution of fish and fishery products was carried out by large state-owned companies which failed to survive the transition. The old system has not yet been fully replaced, but new private distribution companies and supermarket chains are emerging - through joint ventures - together with a wholesale infrastructure. Likewise, some of the processing plants have been modernized and are now producing value-added products that meet EU standards for export. Only Poland still has substantial processing facilities at sea; fish is frozen on-board distant-water fishing vessels and exported, mainly to the EU.

Figure 42. Fishery imports and exports (including intraregional trade)

Fish consumption levels vary considerably among subregions and countries. In the region as a whole, average per caput food fish supply was 17 kg (live weight equivalent) in 1994. However, in the industrialized countries the average supply is about 22.5 kg per year, with variations between, for example Iceland, where the mean fish supply per person and year is over 90 kg, and Albania, Bosnia, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, where supply is less than 2 kg. In general, however, consumers’ perceptions of fish are positive and the demand for fish is likely to increase in the future. This volume cannot be supplied by local production and the area is a net importer of fishery products. In the EU, fish is the second largest food import item, although members of EU 12 accounted for 20 percent of world fish exports in 1994; this includes the value of intraregional trade.

Figure 43. Fishery production by species categories

A recent development in the region is the exertion of consumer pressure on the fishing industry to foster environmental objectives. Initiatives within this area include improved marine stewardship under the Unilever/World Wide Fund for Nature’s ecolabelling of products, the agreement by Unilever and Sainsbury not to use fish oil from industrial fisheries, the proposed import ban on cultured shrimp in Sweden and packaging laws in Germany.

In the transition countries, fish consumption has fallen dramatically recently owing to the lack of supplies; in the Russian Federation, annual per caput consumption decreased from 29 kg to 9 kg between 1989 and 1993. With regard to trade, traditional import and export patterns have changed completely over recent years. Eastern Europe and the republics of the former USSR are now increasingly exporting high-value species in order to generate foreign exchange - groundfish species such as Alaska pollock and cod are among the most common of these. At the same time, low-value products are being imported increasingly as local production decreases. The region is a net fish importer in volume but the value of exports exceeded that of imports by US$1.2 million in 1994.

Figure 44. Fishery imports and exports for major trading countries in 1994


In the new republics of the former USSR, the fisheries administrations are newly established government entities because in the past the sector was centrally managed from Moscow. During the years of transition, the administrative structure has undergone several changes and may still need modifications, such as a strengthening of the socioeconomic capacity. In spite of the availability of excellent natural scientists, qualified social scientists are usually lacking and the concept of planning the sector needs to be (re)introduced. So far, fisheries policies have concentrated on maintaining access to distant-water fishing grounds, improving fisheries management in the national zones and, as appropriate, harmonizing national legislation with that of the EU. Efforts have been made to restructure and privatize the fisheries sector in all countries, but obstacles such as high interest rates have often been encountered.

BOX 11
The new Common Fisheries Policy of the EU

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) of the EU came into existence in 1983. Since then it has developed and been adjusted in accordance with international developments and changes within the EU itself. The CFP has a holistic view of the industry and covers access to resources, conservation of fish stocks and monitoring of fishing activities on the production side as well as marketing of fishery products and research. One important component is the structural policies element. The main programmes are the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) and the PESCA Community Initiative. Since 1993, these structural measures have been integrated into the EU’s system of structural funds (the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund). FIFG has been allocated a budget of approximately 2.6 billion European Currency Units (ECU) for the period 1994 to 1999 (based on a 12-member EU) and can help to finance the following:

· adjustment of fishing effort (granting of premiums for permanent withdrawals and for creating joint enterprises and joint ventures);

· fleet withdrawal and modernization of vessels;

· aid in investment in aquaculture and the establishment of coastal marine areas, fishing port facilities and the processing and marketing of products. In each instance, priority will be given to measures that seek to improve quality, health conditions, environmental impact and statistical instruments;

· other measures such as promoting and searching for new outlets and measures implemented by the fishing industry (e.g. the management of fishing quotas by a producers’ organization or temporary withdrawals).

PESCA was specially designed for assisting geographical areas that are dependent on fisheries. It has the following objectives:

· enabling the fishing industry to accomplish its transformation process successfully, by lending support to the sector, in addition to the assistance rendered under Objective 5a of the Structural Funds;

· helping the fishing industry to cope with the social and economic repercussions of transformation by providing aid towards retraining and the diversification of businesses in the sector;

· contributing to the diversification of the coastal regions concerned, through job expansion schemes.

Moreover, under certain circumstances, FIFG can contribute to the financing of national early-retirement schemes for fishermen.

In 1992, within the framework of the Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes (MAGPs), new targets for fleet capacity reductions were agreed for each EU member country. These targets focused on gradually diminishing fishing capacity - without prejudice to the modernization of the fishing units - in order to improve safety conditions and the preservation of fish on board, thus creating better conditions to improve the profitability of the remaining units. The goal of the MAGP is to reduce the fishing effort by 20 percent by 1996, measured in tonnage volume (gross registered tonnage or GRT) and engine power (kilowatts or kW).

Source: European Commission. 1995. Structural policy to assist fisheries and aquaculture. Santiago de Compostela, Spain, European Commission, Directorate-General XIV Fisheries.

In the EU, there is a Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), parallel to the Common Agriculture Policy, “with common rules throughout EC member countries covering all aspects of the fishing industry from the sea to the consumer”7 (Box 11).

7 European Commission. 1994. The new Common Fisheries Policy. Luxembourg, European Commission, Directorate-General XIV Fisheries.

A number of fisheries management systems exist in the region. The EU Common Fisheries Policy uses a system of total allowable catch (TAC) and quota allocations supplemented by technical measures. In the Baltic Sea, TACs and national quota allocations are agreed by the International Baltic Sea Fishery Commission (IBSFC) based on advice from ICES, which also gives management advice for other parts of the northeast Atlantic. In the Mediterranean, individual countries set national policies which differ by country although the EU coordinates the national policies of its members with advisory inputs from the General Fisheries Council for the Mediterranean (GFCM). Management focuses on measures such as controls of licences and subsidies to the sector, rather than quota control. There is also a serious lack of information on the actual status of stocks. In the Black Sea, no quota or effort controls apply and there is a considerable degree of fleet overcapitalization. A new convention for a Black Sea Commission is now being negotiated among the coastal states.

BOX 12
The Norwegian no-discards policy

In 1983, Norway introduced a new act concerning discarding in marine fisheries. The legislation stated that it is reasonable to throw back fish into the sea if they survive. Obviously this would be unusual; in most cases, the fish caught would be dead or dying or would die after being discarded. As discarding is a waste of valuable marine resources, Norway completely banned the discarding of all economically valuable species. Such a conservation policy made Norway pioneers in the field and gained them support from the Russian Federation, which shares important fish stocks with Norway in the Barents Sea. Canada, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands also introduced similar policies in their respective 200-mile zones, based on the Norwegian model. The prohibition of discarding and a legal obligation to land the whole catch aim at ensuring both rational management of valid stocks and adherence to agreed quota limits.

Clearly a discard ban is difficult to implement without constant monitoring of all fishery operations. Nevertheless, the very existence of a ban has helped change attitudes to discarding. To overcome the problems of discarding juvenile fish and the reality of exploiting multispecies fisheries, the discarding ban has been complemented by other conservation measures such as temporary closures of fishing areas and improved gear selectivity. In summary, the policy has had a positive effect on developing better exploitation of marine resources.

Source: orwegian Directorate of Fisheries, 1996, correspondence to FAO.

Discarding is a serious issue in the region. The northwest Pacific has the highest discard volume in the world, estimated at 9.1 million tonnes, followed by the northeast Atlantic with 3.7 million tonnes. In the Atlantic, the phenomenon appears in part to be a consequence of single species management by quota in what are mixed species fisheries, encouraging “high grading” and discard practices that can sometimes approach 50 percent of the demersal catches although the general absence of observers on-board commercial vessels makes quantification difficult. Norway, as one of the major fishing nations in the area, has introduced a no-discards policy (Box 12). In the Mediterranean and Black seas, discard problems may be less acute, except for the large-scale gill-net fisheries which still operate despite the UN ban.

Other problems facing fisheries management organizations and arrangements in the northeast Atlantic include pollution, misreporting and a lack of appropriate enforcement. The North Sea Task Force8 has undertaken one of the most comprehensive quality status reports ever made for a marine ecosystem and made recommendations for the development of a strategy to protect species and habitats.9

8 Members of the task force are the eight North Sea states - Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom - as well as relevant representatives of the European Commission.

9 North Sea Task Force. 1993. North Sea Quality Status Report 1993.

A major problem is referred to as “black fish landings”, i.e. unrecorded landings that are made to avoid quota restrictions. Efforts to improve monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) capabilities have included the use of vessel monitoring systems, and the EU intends to implement further post-harvest audits of logbooks and sales documents.

Traditional management methods of catch limitations have repeatedly failed to reduce fish mortality in the northeast Atlantic and are largely discredited. A major reduction of fleet capacity as well as more extensive use of direct fishing effort control, as is currently being considered by the EU, could prove more effective.


The demand for fish in Europe is likely to increase in the future, given the positive perception of fish as a food item in the western part of the region and the recovery of previous consumption levels in the eastern part. However, for rapid recovery, supplies of inexpensive products will be needed.

Fish production in the transition countries, in particular the Russian Federation, should stop declining soon and start to recover slowly. The revitalized fishing industry will be very different from that of the 1980s; it is likely that the distant-water fishing sector will play only a minor role and that emphasis will instead be on better utilization of resources in home waters. A sound restructuring programme would include a renovation of the fleets - as already started in the Russian Federation - and a reduction of overcapacity in the fishing sector.

Future fishing prospects for the industrialized countries depend mainly on the effectiveness of fisheries management in the northeast Atlantic. As mentioned above, the elimination of overcapacity and a more direct control of fishing efforts could be two components of a scheme for improved management.

Inland fishery resources are already considerably exploited, and their main orientation is changing from food production to recreation. Nevertheless, some increases in food fish production from inland waters - especially in the transition countries - could be achieved by better management. Although aquaculture production may increase in western Europe, it is likely to be constrained by limited site availability, competition for aquatic resources, stricter environmental controls and cheaper imports from other regions. However, given the potential markets in industrialized countries, aquaculture production in transition countries is likely to diversify into the culture of higher-value species such as salmon and eels.

Trade in fishery products has continued to grow, albeit at a slower rate, over the last three years. In order to meet future demand, the region as a whole will continue to be a net importer of fish.

4. Latin America and the Caribbean1

1 This review is based on the regional study prepared by the FAO interdepartmental task force, headed by A. Gumy, Fishery Policy and Planning Division/Development Planning Service (FIPP).

The region covers the South American continent, Central America and Mexico, as well as the island states and territories of the Caribbean. The region is surrounded by the southern parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and includes the semi-closed seas of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

Latin American and Caribbean fish production reached record levels in 1994 of 24 million tonnes, representing 22 percent of the world total. Small pelagic marine fish make up about 75 percent of the total catch. The contribution of the sector to the economy is highly concentrated in coastal rural areas where it is the key - and often only - source of employment and income. Internally, it plays a minor role. Food fish consumption has been less than the global average at a per caput supply of about 9 kg annually (live weight equivalent). Latin American countries are major exporting countries of fish and fishery products and account for 11 percent of world exports, with Chile as the main net exporter. Shrimp and fishmeal are the main exports.


Marine fisheries

Total marine landings in the region amounted to 23.1 million tonnes in 1994, 85 percent of which derived from the southeast Pacific, where catches reached a record high in that year. Total production is still dominated by Peruvian anchoveta and fluctuations in total volume are the result of this species’ variability. Catches from anchoveta fisheries collapsed in the 1970s from 13.1 million tonnes in 1970 to 1.7 million tonnes in 1973 and down to only 94 000 tonnes in 1984. Since then the stock has recovered and landings reached 11.9 million tonnes in 1994. While heavy fishing played a major role in the collapse, climatic change through the El Niño was also a primary cause of recruitment failure and stock decline (Box 13). Although the two main substocks of the Peruvian anchoveta are now reported to be fully exploited, rigorous monitoring and surveillance measures are necessary to avoid overfishing.

Other small pelagic stocks such as the South American pilchard, the Chilean horse mackerel and mackerel started to increase when the Peruvian anchoveta fishery collapsed; the first two species are now major components of production in the area, although the pilchard is considered fully exploited and even overexploited in part of its range.

In the southwest Atlantic, production has been increasing recently. The dominant species are squid and hake, followed by basses, congers and other demersals. Squids, shrimps, lobsters and crabs, as well as small pelagic species such as sardinella and Argentine anchoveta, are also fished. Until the 1980s, this was one of the few fishing areas of the world to have a large expansion potential but, since then, several industrialized long-range fisheries have developed and most of the fish stocks are now considered to be fully exploited, while some have been overexploited over the last few years.

Figure 45. Regional fish production and share of world production in percentage

In the western central Atlantic area, most pelagic fisheries, including billfish, tuna and swordfish, are fully or overexploited. There is general concern about finfish, especially sharks and rays, and many species of reef fish have been fully or overexploited, as has the queen conch. In the eastern central Pacific, fish production has generally decreased despite a slight increase between 1993 and 1994. The most dramatic steady decline in catch since the mid-1980s has been in the Californian anchovy and sardine fisheries, which has had a negative impact on Mexican production levels. The production of tunas and other large pelagics has also increased slightly over the past 20 years. Shrimps and prawns sustain particularly valuable and important fisheries throughout the area.

While the Latin America region depended heavily on imported vessels and fishing gear in the past, recently more up-to-date, harvesting technology has been transferred to the region, in particular from northern Europe. Regional shipyards can now build and fit fishing vessels to high standards while local manufacturers can make every type of fishing gear and gear handling machinery. This transfer is reflected in the large and state-of-the-art equipped purse seiners built by yards in both Peru and Chile. In the southern part of the Pacific, purse seining for small pelagics is a very large-scale operation aimed mainly at supplying raw material to fishmeal and fish oil plants. In the north, shrimp trawling is more common. On the Atlantic coast, the main harvesting methods vary from trawling for shrimp and demersal species with medium-sized vessels in the region north of the Amazon river, to larger-scale bottom and midwater trawling by large freezer stern trawlers south of the River Plate. In addition, there is a seasonal purse-seine fishery for small pelagics in southern Brazil and important tuna purse-seine fisheries in Venezuela. Longlining is also practised all along the coastline.

BOX 13
Environmental impacts on marine fisheries with particular reference to the El Niño phenomena

The Latin America and Caribbean region, particularly along the west coast of South and Central America, seems susceptible to the impact of environmental changes on marine fishery stocks. Quite dramatic fluctuations at decadal scales in the Pacific basin have severely affected overall abundance and total production of small pelagics, as well as other stocks.

The environmental impact of El Niño is particularly important; the 1972-73 El Niño contributed to the collapse of the Peruvian anchoveta fishery, and the one in 1982-83 had a negative impact on fish abundance and actual production in the whole Pacific area. All species of fish have been affected. Furthermore, changes in the overall distribution and local abundance of squids, tunas, coastal shrimps, hakes and a relatively wide variety of other species reported for both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the Americas could be related to changes in El Niño southern oscillations.

Other examples of environmental impacts include the advance of Antarctic waters into the southwest Atlantic, hurricanes and typhoons in the Caribbean and various other decadal changes in environmental conditions.

Efforts clearly need to be made to improve forecasting capabilities for such changes, both to reduce negative impacts on fisheries and also to benefit from some of the positive effects these changes may bring. (See also Box 8 on p. 59.)

Source: FAO. 1994. Review of the state of world marine fishery resources. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 335. Rome; plus many other sources.

In the small island Caribbean states, fisheries are mainly small-scale and artisanal, utilizing passive gear such as hooks and lines, gill-nets and pots and traps. In most cases, artisanal vessels are traditionally built for harvesting demersal resources and crustaceans close to the islands.

According to data from Lloyd’s Maritime Information Services, the Latin American fleet has been increasing at an annual rate of about 5 percent over the last decade. Even allowing for the open ship registers of Panama and Honduras, there has been an increase in the number of large vessels in the region. Lloyd’s Register of Shipping shows a total of 3 156 vessels with a tonnage exceeding 100 gross registered tonnage (GRT) registered in the region in 1995, compared with 2 238 in 1985.2 This expansion of the industrial fishing fleet has meant excess fishing capacity is now an issue, even in several hake and tropical shrimp fisheries.

2 When the fleets of Honduras and Panama are excluded, the corresponding figures are 2 152 in 1995 and 1 787 in 1985.

Inland water fisheries

After rapid growth in inland fisheries production up until 1987, when the combined regional catch topped 580 000 tonnes, catches stabilized and even declined to about 450 000 tonnes in 1991. In 1994, total reported catches attained some 500 000 tonnes, which is far below the potential yield for the inland waters of the continent and much lower than reported production from similar areas of the tropics in Africa and Asia. These falling figures may partly be owing to inadequate statistics (generally data for recreational and subsistence activities are not recorded), but are probably mainly attributable to generally low productivity.

Inland fisheries are concentrated in areas near the main water courses. Although exploitation is low, localized regions show signs of overfishing. Elsewhere the effects of overfishing have been exacerbated by environmental degradation. Three main exploitation patterns characterize the region: in the south, i.e. in Argentina, Chile and parts of Brazil, commercial fisheries have usually been closed and resources are now reserved mainly for recreational and subsistence activities; in the central part of the region, commercial fisheries on rivers and reservoirs are less intensive; and in the north, particularly in the drought polygon of Brazil, in Cuba and in Mexico, an increasing trend towards the intensive management of reservoirs through stocking and species introductions has led these areas to record the highest growth in recent years.

Most Caribbean islands do not have any inland waters of importance; consequently inland water fisheries are virtually non-existent there.


In 1994, total aquaculture production reached 472 000 tonnes, representing about 2 and 5 percent of world production by volume and value, respectively. Aquaculture makes a similar contribution to total regional fisheries production, with six countries accounting for most of the production. Shrimp culture has increased very rapidly and represented over 80 percent of the total value of regional production in 1994. Salmon culture has also developed, although almost exclusively in Chile. However, profit margins for both species have been declining. Freshwater fish and mollusc cultures are also carried out, for example tilapia, trout and carps.

Figure 46. Fish Utilization and food supply

Industrial export-oriented aquaculture has expanded significantly and still has moderate growth potential. Finally, aquaculture oriented towards producing low-cost products has developed to a minor extent.


Fish consumption levels vary widely among countries as well as within countries. The regional average of per caput food fish supply is around 9 kg annually (live weight equivalent), which is well below the world average of about 13 kg. However, consumption has been increasing slightly over the last decades. For about 5 percent of the total population, i.e. for the inhabitants of the English-speaking Caribbean islands and of Chile, per caput annual supplies top 30 kg. Conversely, most Central American countries show levels of less than 5 kg per year. As a result, the contribution of fishery products to animal protein supplies is less critical in Latin America than in many other developing countries, although fish is still a vital food item in some local communities.

Figure 47. Fishery imports and exports (including intraregional trade)

The abundance of small pelagic fish provides the basis for an important fish reduction industry in Latin America, where more than two-thirds of the total catch are oriented to non-food products. The main items are fishmeal and fish oil used as feed in the animal husbandry, poultry and aquaculture industries. Chile, Peru and, to a lesser extent, Ecuador use the bulk of the raw material destined for fishmeal. Other non-food uses, such as for bait and pet food, do not represent substantial shares of fisheries output. Long-standing efforts have been made to reduce the quantities used for fishmeal production and to find alternative uses for direct human consumption but no sustained success and economic feasibility have been achieved to date, largely owing to the ready availability of fishmeal raw material and reluctance to invest in market development.

Figure 48. Fishery production by species categories

The disposition of catches for direct human consumption shows the important share of fresh fish, i.e. over 50 percent, with frozen and canned in the order of 20 percent each. The utilization of fish supplies by processing type has generally followed historical patterns determined by the available resources and market forces, in particular international demand. Although the international market still prevails, the industry now seems to be more eager to adapt available technologies to any positive domestic market trends. Naturally, fish utilization varies at the subregional level - in the Caribbean, for example, fish utilization is influenced by the requirements of tourism.

Figure 49. Fishery imports and exports for major trading commodities in 1993

Latin American countries are major exporters of fish and fishery products, accounting for 11 percent of world exports. Equipped with modern processing plants, the region can manufacture to international standards and ensure safe and wholesome products. Shrimp and fishmeal are the main exports. Chile and Peru dominate the world fishmeal market, with exports going mainly to the Asian market, and Mexico and Ecuador are exporters of shrimp. Most Latin American shrimp exports go to the United States market; only recently have Ecuadorian shrimp exporters managed to penetrate the European shrimp market. While the Mexican shrimp export industry is still dominated by wild shrimp, Ecuador almost exclusively exports cultured shrimp products. Tuna has traditionally also been one of the main fish exports but the enforcement of a “dolphin-safe” policy by the United States Government in 1991 created substantial problems for Latin American tuna fisheries.

As fish-importing countries, Latin America makes up only about 2 percent of the world total. Intraregional trade is also still quite limited.


In most countries, fisheries policy has been strongly influenced by macroeconomic policies that form part of stabilization programmes. Measures include the privatization of production units, the facilitation of foreign trade, reduction or elimination of economic incentives and providing incentives to foreign investment in the fisheries sector. These policies have also aimed at streamlining the administrative and technical structures of public administrations, including fisheries administration. In the transition period, the research and management capacity of fisheries administration has been affected in terms of functions, budget allocation and technical and administrative staff. Lately, however, the situation seems to have improved in several countries.

Most regional fishing nations have legal provisions to regulate and limit access to their main fisheries through various types of licensing schemes that regulate or limit the total number of vessels, fishermen, gears, accumulated engine power or other unit of fishing capacity that can enter most major fisheries. As a result, fisheries recognized to be near, or at, the state of full exploitation are theoretically under a closed-access regime, meaning that no new fisher can enter without replacing an existing one. Some countries also use individual quota systems to allocate access to resources, thus keeping fishing capacity under control. Individual transferable quota (ITQ) regimes are not in force at present in any nation of the region but a few countries are contemplating setting them up in some fisheries after assessing the technical and socio-economic factors involved.

National legislation to keep fishing capacity under control has not always proved very successful in the region. While the actual legislation may be adequate, non-existent or over-permissive surveillance and enforcement practices might be a major cause of excess fishing capacity in some highly profitable fisheries.

The regional institutional framework for fisheries cooperation, management and development is formed by several regional bodies. These bodies differ totally or partially from one another in legal nature, membership, areas of competence, mandate and geographical coverage. Two of them are FAO bodies: the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) and the Commission for Inland Fisheries of Latin America (COPESCAL); the rest are non-FAO intergovernmental organizations such as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), the Permanent South Pacific Commission (CPPS) and the Latin American Organization for Fisheries Development (OLDEPESCA).

Latin American fisheries generally account for a rather small percentage of total discard volumes, estimated at around 5 percent. This relatively low figure is mainly owing to the high landings by Peru and Chile of fishmeal species, which yield very few or no discards. These two countries were reported to land 18.6 million tonnes of sardines, anchoveta and jacks mainly for their fishmeal industries, leaving the remaining catch of the area as less than 4.8 million tonnes. Nevertheless, these fisheries still generate some waste (Box 14).

Coastal area degradation is reducing the fishing potential in many places, particularly in small-scale fisheries. These fisheries continue to play a key role in supplying food and employment in marginal coastal areas and several countries are taking steps to introduce integrated coastal area management approaches as an alternative to other resource management schemes.


Fish consumption in Latin America and the Caribbean has been increasing gradually over the last 20 years and will probably continue to increase in the future. Taking population and economic growth into account, it is estimated that demand will increase by about 2 million to 3 million tonnes by 2010.

Increased supplies could come from the reduction of discards and post-harvest losses. The increased utilization of small pelagics for direct human consumption could be another key issue for the region, but will need to be based on economic, technological and marketing feasibility. Regarding increased landings, commercially exploited marine species are generally in an advanced state of exploitation and existing stocks will need better management to meet future demand. In addition, fish production in the Latin America and the Caribbean region will fluctuate according to the variability in abundance of small pelagic stocks.

Current inland fisheries production trends will probably become more pronounced in the future. In the south - Argentina, Chile and parts of Brazil - trends to close fisheries to commercial exploitation and to reserve them for recreational and subsistence activities will continue. In the central part of the region, commercial fisheries on rivers and reservoirs will continue at generally low productivity levels. In the north, and in particular in the drought polygon of Brazil, in Cuba and Mexico, the intensified management of reservoirs through stocking and species introduction is expected to continue. Given these trends, increased production will be possible subject to careful management and the enhancement of Latin American reservoirs.

Export-oriented industrial aquaculture has expanded significantly in the region and still has moderate growth potential. Other types of aquaculture, such as pond-based fisheries in reservoirs, freshwater fish culture, mollusc and aquatic plants culture, have all grown less than expected. Regional aquaculture potential derives not only from available resources (water, land, coasts, temperature, agriculture, etc.) but also from the existing institutional set-up, research and entrepreneurial capacity. Most problems regarding the slow growth of aquaculture concern these factors. One important consequence is that socially oriented aquaculture as well as aquaculture oriented towards producing low-value products for low-income social sectors have developed little. A future challenge will be to institute measures that take advantage of the existing potential for these types of aquaculture production.

BOX 14
By-catch issues in South and Central America

Three particular problems relate to by-catch and discards in the Latin America and Caribbean region: by-catches of groundfish and of turtles during shrimp fishing and by-catches of dolphins during tuna fishing.

Shrimp fishing has always been notorious for the widespread discarding of groundfish and turtles as by-catch and, as many discards are juveniles, the abundance and sustainability of these stocks are threatened. Shrimp fisheries in Brazil and Mexico provide good examples of measures to counter the problem. Multiple trawls with sharper tapers were introduced, resulting in improved fishing selectivity and efficiency - by-catches were reduced by 18 percent and shrimp catches increased by 5 percent. Nevertheless, traditional trawling persists in inshore fisheries, where the by-catch is used for human consumption.
The by-catch of shrimp trawls has been described by the National Research Council of the United States as the major human-induced cause of turtle mortality. Many turtle excluder devices (TEDs) to reduce turtle discards have been, and continue to be, developed. Turtle catches can be reduced by 97 percent using such devices. Following a United States ban on imports of shrimp from countries that do not use TEDs to conserve turtle stocks, certain countries in the region, for example Mexico and Venezuela in 1993, have enforced the use of TEDs.

Dolphin catches in eastern tropical Pacific tuna fisheries have been a cause for concern for some time. Since the early 1970s, dolphin populations seem to have stabilized as a result of deliberate efforts to reduce by-catches: training skippers to undertake “backdown procedures”; helping dolphins to get out of the nets; and making suitable gear modifications. The International Dolphin Conservation Programme (IDCP) has also been instrumental in conserving stocks, and imports to the United States of tuna from nations participating in the IDCP are encouraged.

The discarding of by-catches and its impact on other stocks clearly requires action. There is an urgent need for gear and fishing practices that ensure the sustainable utilization of resources for the benefit of those people who depend on fisheries for their livelihood and for future generations.

Source: FAO. 1994. A global assessment of fisheries by-catch and discards. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 339, Rome.

Fish-eating countries, particularly in the Caribbean, will continue to depend on fish imports although improved management of their resources and exploitation of large pelagics could bring some relief to the import bill. In parallel, other foods may replace fish to a certain extent.

Given the strong influence of international demand in terms of volume and unit value, and the orientation of the regional export industry towards foreign markets, the value of fish exports should continue to grow. One important condition is that macroeconomic and sector policies help keep regional products competitive. The trend of producing more value-added products rather than selling only raw material for the processing industries will probably continue in the coming years. Measures relating to trade and environment could generate economic problems for some sectors of the fishing industry as with the tuna-dolphin and shrimp-turtle issues.

5. North America1

1 This review is based on the regional study prepared by the FAO interdepartmental task force, headed by M. Lizarraga, Fishery Policy and Planning Division/International Institutions and Liaison Service (FIPL).

The region includes Canada, Greenland and the United States (excluding the Caribbean and the South Pacific islands but including Bermuda and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon as well as Alaska) and the adjacent fishing areas of the northwest and central Atlantic and the northeast Pacific. Owing to the structure of available data, the review is mainly concentrated on the situation in Canada and the United States.

With a total production of 7.1 million tonnes in 1994, the North American region contributes about 6 percent of global fish catch. Marine commercial landings have fluctuated somewhat during the last decade with catches from the north Atlantic decreasing. Aquaculture and recreational fisheries show a more steady growth. Food fish consumption averages a per caput supply of some 22 to 23 kg (live weight equivalent) annually and has been stable during the last few years. The United States in particular, but also Canada, is a major importer as well as an exporter of fish and fishery products. In Greenland, fish represents over 90 percent of the total export value of the island.


Marine fisheries

In 1994, total marine catches of the North American region were 6.5 million tonnes, representing a slight decrease in volume compared with 1993 but higher than in 1992. Production has been fluctuating after a steady upward trend over about 20 years up to 1990, when regional landings peaked at 7.2 million tonnes. The main reason behind the recent stagnation derives from the overexploitation of the principal commercial groundfish stocks in some areas where fisheries are now closed or subject to restrictions. For example, in the north Atlantic, cod, which used to contribute the majority of landings, is under moratorium off the northeast coast of Canada and, thus, attains only a small fraction of earlier production values. Furthermore, such restrictions have brought about socio-economic change in many communities in that area which depended completely on the marine harvest for their livelihoods.

Figure 50. Regional fish production and share of world production in percentage

On the other hand, the main pelagic fish stocks, i.e. herring and mackerel, appear much healthier, except in localized areas. Shrimp, snow crab and lobster resources are also doing well, and it has been conjectured that shrimp may actually have benefited from less predation in some areas after cod stocks collapsed.

In the north Pacific, the most important fish species include Alaska pollock, Pacific cod, herring, yellowfin sole, north Pacific hake, tunas and salmons. Alaska pollock is by far the most important species, constituting 40 percent of Pacific catch volume in 1994. Species that are considered fully utilized include Pacific cod (in the Gulf of Alaska), Pacific halibut, sablefish, groundfish stocks off the United States Pacific coast and Pacific whiting (hake). The status of Pacific salmon resources varies considerably from area to area with most stocks considered fully utilized and coho and chinook stocks overexploited.

Flatfishes other than halibut are abundant and underutilized in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska owing to by-catch restrictions on other species caught in the same gear. Jack mackerel is also underutilized. Although the abundance of Pacific herring varies, the trend is for fairly healthy stock levels.

Regional fleets are characterized by high technology. Excess capacity is an important issue for the United States and Canada, which have both implemented programmes to address this. During 1995, the United States embarked on two regional programmes to reduce the fishing effort. In the northwest Atlantic, groundfish capacity is being reduced by scrapping vessels and surrendering permits while, in the northeast Pacific, hundreds of salmon fishing permits are being withdrawn. Fishing Family Assistance Centres are being established to complement the vessel and permit buyout programmes (see also Fisheries policy and management on p. 82).

In Canada, there is overcapacity in the domestic fleets on both coasts, although much of the Atlantic groundfish fleet has been idle and fleets have been downsized in recent years. In the Atlantic region, a licence withdrawal plan for groundfish was implemented in 1994. In addition, an early retirement plan for fishers was announced in 1995 and a licence withdrawal scheme is available for Pacific salmon.

Inland water fisheries

In inland fisheries, the catch from commercial small-scale fisheries is steadily decreasing owing to displacement by expanding recreational fisheries. It is believed that the level of United States freshwater recreational catch now well exceeds the commercial catch for all of North America. Federal aid to the restoration of sport fishing is considerable and in 1995 seven federal agencies involved in administration took various measures to develop recreational fishery programmes. In addition, in the central and Arctic regions of Canada, recreational catch exceeds the commercial production from inland water capture fisheries. The total reported commercial catch for 1994 was 71 000 tonnes.


Aquaculture in North America is a diversified industry which includes marine and freshwater fishes, crustaceans, molluscs and plants. The emphasis in the Canadian industry is on cold-water species such as salmon, trout and molluscs. In the United States, the main species include catfish, cupped oysters, rainbow trout, golden shiner (used for bait), salmon and crawfish. For some species, for example tilapia and shrimp, growth has been particularly rapid. On average, the United States aquaculture industry grew at about 2 percent a year over the decade to 1994, compared with Canadian growth of over 20 percent. In value, the Canadian aquaculture industry is expected to reach a quarter of the value of commercial fisheries by the year 2000. Total regional aquaculture production attained almost 0.5 million tonnes in 1994.

Figure 51. Fish utilization and food supply


North American fish consumption increased from a supply of 14.7 kg per person in 1970 to almost 22 kg in the late 1980s and has since remained static. Real prices of fish have increased compared with meat products and there appears to be a trend of more expenditure on seafood and a shift of demand in favour of seafood relative to red meat. The most popular fishery products are tuna (primarily canned), shrimp, pollock, cod, salmon, catfish, flatfish, clams, crab and scallops. Three main themes have influenced - both negatively and positively - consumers’ perceptions and the demand for fish and fishery products in the United States: more awareness of the health benefits of seafood consumption; concern over the safety of seafood products; and greater consumer awareness of the marine environment as well as concern for marine mammals, in particular dolphins and whales, sea turtles and endangered or threatened species in general (Box 15).

Figure 52. Fishery imports and exports (including intraregional trade)

BOX 15
Environment and resource conservation

Both fisheries and aquaculture in North America are influenced by strong environmental and resource conservation awareness among the general public and consumers. In the United States, this is reflected in many government regulatory provisions for protecting the aquatic environment and its associated aquatic biological diversity. Legislation includes the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and the proposed Fisheries Act (Bill C-115), all referring to species protection and conservation of habitats. Furthermore, American interest groups that aim at promoting environmental issues have been exerting pressure to use international trade to influence the fishing methods and gear used. This has, for example, been translated into a requirement to reduce the imports of some fish species when they are not fished by gear and methods that meet certain conditions. Such stipulations are sometimes independent of scientific evidence and could therefore be challenged under international market rules.

Source: United States Department of Commerce. 1995. Our living oceans. Report on the Status of United States Living Marine Resources; and other sources.

As with the fishing subsector, the processing industry of the region is highly technically developed. New developments in transport, distribution and in freezing techniques have taken place and the shelf-life of fresh and live fish has been prolonged, signifying more trade in these types of products beyond local markets. As a result, most domestic landings are utilized in a fresh or frozen form, with the trend in consumption towards a greater share of fresh and frozen aquaculture products, particularly catfish and salmon. In contrast, many of the traditional wild fisheries, such as cod, flatfish, clams and scallops, have shown declines in per caput consumption. For canned fishery products, consumption has increased only slightly since 1970, indicating a shift of the United States consumer towards higher-value seafood. With the improved distribution system, fresh fish and shellfish are increasingly available in urban centres all year-round. An estimated 70 percent of United States seafood expenditure is associated with food service purchases; higher-value seafood appears to be more frequently consumed in restaurants, and this trend of away-from-home consumption is expected to continue.

The United States is one of the top fish-importing as well as exporting countries, and Canada is among the leading exporters in the world. The United States is the second largest importer after Japan, with food fish imports valued at US$6.6 billion in 1994. Shrimp constitutes over one-third of imports, supplied mainly by Ecuador and Thailand. There are also substantial imports of groundfish fillets and blocks, mainly from the Russian Federation and China. United States exports amounted to US$3.1 billion in the same year, consisting mainly of Pacific salmon and groundfish.2 Export fisheries statistics for Canada indicate an export value of more than US$2 billion in 1994. Major markets for Canadian exports are the United States, Japan and the European Union (EU). Greenland exported fishery products at a value of US$266 million in 1994 and fish represents over 90 percent of the island’s total exports.3

2 United States Department of Commerce. 1995. Fisheries of the United States 1994. Current Fishery Statistics No. 9400. Silver Spring, Md, USA.

3 Danmarks Statistik. 1996. External trade of Denmark 1994. Copenhagen.


In the United States, marine fisheries are administered nationally by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and by the eight regional fishery management councils. Federal and state agencies administer inland fisheries and the regional councils are responsible for the marine resources management in their respective jurisdictional areas.

In Canada, federal fisheries jurisdiction is exercised by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the management objectives of which are to conserve and protect the resource and, in partnership with commercial, aboriginal and recreational users, to ensure a sustainable fishery and fishing industry. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans also exercises some jurisdiction with regard to inland resources, the most important area being the central and Arctic region, which contains about 67 percent of Canada’s freshwater and seven of the largest lakes in the world.

The loss or degradation of habitat is perhaps the most serious environmental issue facing the fisheries sector in the region.

In the northwest Pacific (the United States) and British Columbia (Canada), an estimated 80 percent of spawning and riverine habitat which supported Pacific salmon and steelhead runs has been lost. The most widely used techniques to rebuild capture fisheries include stocking or hatchery enhancement, the construction of artificial reefs, the development of aquatic reserves or protected areas and habitat restoration. Hatcheries are now common and billions of juveniles are released every year. However, although the federal governments in the United States and Canada provide an umbrella of environmental protection policies, socio-economic and political interests often influence the way these policies are implemented and enforced.

Figure 53. Fishery production by species categories

Current national policies for fisheries conservation and management in the United States are based on fishery management plans developed through extensive consultations with government agencies, public interest and user groups and relevant international organizations. Almost all federal fisheries are under some sort of controlled access (licences and permits). To date, only three federal individual transferable quota (ITQ) systems have been implemented for some fisheries and these are believed to contribute to substantial fishing vessel reduction. Programmes for reducing excess fishing capacity have also been introduced. Technology development in the United States has recently been influenced by ecological and market concerns. There have been some advances in gear selectivity and improvements in the post-harvest sector are expected to continue as a result of demand for value-added products. In addition, a mandatory seafood inspection programme is being developed.

Figure 54. Fishery imports and exports for major trading commodities in 1993

In Atlantic Canada, management takes into account recommendations of the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council, which was created to bring together the knowledge of fishermen, the fishing industry and scientists in a common effort to guide the conduct of the Atlantic fishery. A similar body has been created for the Pacific region. In addition to implementing moratoria on various species, Canadian management requires fleets to submit acceptable conservation harvesting plans before each fishing season. To manage excess capacity, there has been a shift towards enterprise allocations, ITQs, individual quotas and community quotas.

BOX 16
The NMFS strategic plan regarding by-catch

The United States National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has a ten-year strategic plan for sponsored research on by-catch and management initiatives. Priorities include: i) by-catch data to identify fisheries where by-catch is significant; ii) assessment of the biological, economic, social and ecosystem effects of by-catch mitigation alternatives, their scale and characteristics; and iii) conservation engineering. The plan will include recommended priorities, strategies to achieve approved goals, a schedule for implementation and procedures for monitoring and assessing selected alternatives. The NMFS Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee, which is examining long-term solutions to by-catch issues, has considered various measures, including gear design and modification, development of the mariculture industry for fisheries with heavily fished wild stocks, management techniques to monitor the problem and market-driven approaches, which have met with success in Alaska.

Source: United States Department of Commerce, Fisheries Service, correspondence to FAO, 1996.

Management measures for various areas and species are recommended by regional fisheries organizations and arrangements in which Canada and the United States participate, including the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO), the Pacific Salmon Commission, the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission and the International Pacific Halibut Commission. Canada and the United States cooperate to some extent in managing highly migratory species and straddling stocks through these regional fisheries organizations. Both countries also have regulations concerning aquaculture development.

Regulations and regional agreements with regard to by-catch have already been in place for some years and discards are relatively low for most species, in both the northwest Atlantic and the northeast Pacific. The issue continues to receive attention and, for example in the United States, NMFS is currently preparing a ten-year strategic plan for research and management initiatives (Box 16).


Future seafood demand in North America will probably be influenced by the growing perception of fish as healthy food on the one hand and of sanitary and environmental concerns on the other. In aggregate, it is difficult to quantify the exact impact of the different issues upon consumption patterns. Nevertheless, it is expected that the demand for fish and fishery products will increase in the future. A further shift to higher-value seafood could also be expected.

The marine capture fisheries of the region have practically reached a plateau of production where most commercial fish stocks are fully fished or overexploited. Free and open access as well as traditional management measures are considered increasingly inadequate and there is an emerging trend towards new systems for resource allocation and conservation, which tend to be more oriented towards privatization and the direct involvement of private industry in monitoring activities. It is, however, much too early to predict the consequences for production levels and composition in the future.

The few underutilized stocks, mainly small pelagic species, do not appear to have an immediate market. Consequently, increased production will probably come from aquaculture. Considering past trends, this development will probably be technology-intensive and will have to pay due attention to environmental issues.

Supply could also be boosted by more imports, increasing the potential for developing countries with growing aquaculture industries, particularly in Southeast Asia, to increase exports to North America. The United States in particular will therefore continue to be a major importer of fishery products, although environmental and quality control aspects will continue to influence imports to the region and consumption patterns.

6. Near East and North Africa1

1 This review is based on the regional study prepared by the FAO interdepartmental task force, headed by G.V. Everett, Fisheries Policy and Planning Division, Development Planning Service (FIPP).

The region extends from the Atlantic coast of Morocco along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa (excluding Malta but including Cyprus) to the coast of the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey and also includes Egypt, Jordan and the countries of the Arabian peninsula (bordering the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea) and the countries of central Asia. Other main water bodies of the region include the Black Sea (which is also discussed in the review of Europe on p. 64), the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea.

No country in the Near East and North Africa region depends substantially on fish and fishery products as a mainstay of its economy. Fisheries are diversified, ranging from those based on relatively abundant resources off the Atlantic coast of Morocco, to coastal and inland water fisheries with relatively poor resources. Total production reached some 2.8 million tonnes in 1994, of which Moroccan landings represented more than one-quarter. Food fish consumption varies widely throughout the region and is low relative to meat. In Yemen, supply reaches 40 kg per caput, while Afghanistan has the lowest per caput consumption at 0.1 kg (live weight equivalent). In general, the region is not a substantial contributor to international trade in fisheries.


Marine fisheries

In 1994, after years of low catches, total marine catches in the region amounted to 2.2 million tonnes, almost reaching the 1988 level when landings were at their peak.

Figure 55. Regional fish production and share of world production in percentage

Morocco, which borders both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, has the most abundant fish resources. The eastern central Atlantic contributes about one-third of the region’s total marine production. High-value species targeted include cephalopods, hake, seabream and crustaceans. There are also important small pelagic resources, such as sardine, mackerel, horse mackerel and sardinella, of which the sardine is the most important species. The cephalopod and demersal fisheries are considered to be overexploited and in need of reductions in fishing effort. Some of the small pelagic resources are in better condition, in particular the sardinella stocks shared with Mauritania in the south.

The eastern Mediterranean has little potential for increased landings from capture fisheries. On the whole, it seems unlikely that any underexploited stocks have been left in the Mediterranean, although some small pelagic stocks can increase suddenly from time to time, possibly owing to temporary environmental conditions. Relatively rich trawling grounds are found in the Gulf of Gabes in Tunisia, the Gulf of Syria in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and off the Nile Delta in Egypt. The major Mediterranean species include sardines, anchovy and horse mackerels. Catches from the Black Sea declined drastically a few years ago, in particular Turkish landings of anchovy. Overfishing, pollution and the introduction of exotic species appeared to be the reasons for the decline.

Fisheries resources in the main seas of the area are not abundant, but provide local coastal fishermen with employment. There are reliable estimates of substantial mesopelagic resources which could be exploited in the Arabian Sea off Oman, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan, but the commercial viability of such operations is not at all certain. However, all commercially valuable stocks in the waters of eastern Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are fully exploited and there are various estimates of the potential of the Red Sea. Considering the coral reefs and associated fish communities in the sea, the resources tend to be vulnerable to overfishing. Important commercial species exploited include Indian spiny lobster and shrimp.

Throughout the area, fisheries are threatened by environmental degradation from oil spills and industrial, urban and agricultural run-off. The comb-jelly, which devastated the Black Sea ecosystem, is now also present in the northeastern Mediterranean. By-catch and consequent discards are a serious problem in the waters of Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where the by-catch of shrimp trawlers can be as much as 95 percent of the catch - about 35 000 tonnes in 1994. The situation is even more disturbing in the cephalopod trawler, hake and crustacean fisheries off northwestern Africa, which has an estimated by-catch approaching 350 000 tonnes.

In most countries throughout the region it is difficult to estimate the state of the stocks because of the absence of surveys and to monitor fishing effort, and only inferences based on catch trends are possible. It can reasonably be assumed that, if catches have decreased, it is because of overfishing rather than reductions in the fishing effort. A problem of excess fishing capacity has surfaced in the southern Mediterranean with fleet expansion plans in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and relocation of part of the Turkish Black Sea anchovy fleet to the Turkish Mediterranean. Recently, some governments have been reducing the availability of grants and low-cost loans for investment in order to slow down the rate of capitalization. Nevertheless, vessels are generally becoming more sophisticated with improved navigational aids, gear and handling techniques, although the very large distant-water fishing vessels are less frequently seen than previously, in particular as the Eastern European countries have been restructuring their fleets. In Morocco, the new access agreement with the European Union (EU) provides for a reduced number of vessels. As a consequence, Morocco expects to modernize its inshore fleet to take advantage of the reduced foreign fishing effort in its fishing zone; nevertheless, further investments in the already overcapitalized cephalopod fishery may be discouraged.

Figure 56. Fish utilization and food supply

Inland water fisheries

The total inland water production of the region amounted to 452 000 tonnes in 1994. Egypt accounts for a quarter of the total volume, with fisheries based on the River Nile and Lake Nasser. Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Israel also have sizeable inland capture fishery resources.

In the Caspian Sea, which dominates Iran’s inland water resources, sturgeon, Caspian shad and silver carp are the main species exploited and there are also small pelagics such as kilka. Of major concern is the state of sturgeon stocks, which have been heavily fished over an extensive period. The area has also suffered environmental degradation over the past decades, from both climatic factors and human activities. However, sturgeon stocks are being maintained by hatchery programmes and the small pelagic resources are believed to be only lightly exploited (Box 17).

In central Asia the damming of rivers, the creation of reservoirs and gradual environmental degradation of the Aral Sea have impeded the healthy development of fisheries. The depth of the Aral Sea has been significantly reduced and all commercial fishing ceased in 1982 (Box 18).

Figure 57. Fishery imports and exports (including intraregional trade)


The 1994 value of aquaculture production in the region was only about 2 percent of the world total and the weight represented only 0.6 percent; 148 000 tonnes at a value of US$875 million. Six countries account for about 90 percent of production, which consists almost entirely of finfish, with common carp, Nile tilapia and silver carp as the main cultured species. Molluscs and crustaceans make up the small balance.

BOX 17
Iranian fisheries in the Caspian Sea

The Caspian Sea is suffering from severe pollution and environmental problems which threaten the biological marine resources. Fish resources have also been affected by heavy fishing and sturgeon stocks are particularly damaged. The sea constitutes one of the main fishing areas for the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has recently developed a strategic plan to improve the status of fishery resources, one objective of which is to increase sturgeon production.
To this end, Iran has set up an extensive hatchery programme and concluded international agreements with neighbouring countries to determine catch shares and control poaching. Moreover, the gill-net fishery for bonefish is being phased out through a licence buy-back scheme as the by-catch of sturgeon is significant in this fishery. Displaced fishermen are being encouraged into the beach seine and kilka fisheries, which do not involve sturgeon by-catches. Good potential exists for increasing kilka production and the sustainable catch could be doubled if new fishing grounds are opened. Kilka is a high-volume low-value fish used mainly for fishmeal, although there are initiatives to divert the fish into direct human consumption. Some kilka is already used for canning and frozen packs for domestic consumption.

Source: FAO. 1996. The formulation, evaluation and implementation of fisheries management practices in the Islamic Republic of Iran. TCP Technical Report (restricted), FI:TCP/IRA/4559. Rome.

BOX 18
The Aral Sea catchment

The Aral Sea is fed by two major rivers, the Amu-Darya and the Sur-Darya. Since 1960, however, the sea has been subject to desiccation. In addition to climatic causes such as a series of dry years in the 1970s the sea has been drained by the diversion of water from its two feeder rivers for irrigation.

There is a long tradition of irrigated agriculture in the region, but water use was significantly intensified after 1960. In the Amu-Darya basin, the irrigated area increased by 37 percent between 1961 and 1980, requiring extra resources and increasing water consumption by 80 percent. In addition, water was diverted into the Karakum Canal, also for irrigation. At approximately the same time, the irrigated land area of the Sur-Darya basin expanded by 31 percent and the corresponding water consumption by 22 percent. In order to manage these irrigation systems, reservoirs were built and canal systems expanded. Return water was also being reused for boosting river runoffs. Increased salinity had already occurred, particularly in dry years, but salinity levels increased drastically in rivers and water storage reservoirs following the new regime.

The intensification of water uptake for irrigation purposes in the basins of the Sur-Darya and Amu-Darya has been disastrous to the river deltas as well as to the Aral Sea. Fish stocks have been considerably affected and there has been a substantial reduction in spawning and nursery habitats. Many smaller lakes of the delta have disappeared and the Aral Sea has shrunk considerably. The sea has ceased to be of importance to fisheries; all commercial fishing came to an end in 1982 and, with the disappearance of the fish, 60 000 jobs were lost, causing a social and economic disaster for local communities.

In 1993, a multinational agreement was signed by the five states of the Aral Sea watershed area, i.e. Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, to improve the management of the region’s water resources. However, given the economic and political problems currently faced by these countries, it has proved difficult to make a rescue plan materialize.

Source: FAO. 1995. Indo-Pacific Fishery Commission: Papers contributed to the Regional symposium on sustainable development of inland fisheries under environmental constraints. (5. Case Study 2: The Aral Sea catchment, edited by T. Petr and M. Morris. Bangkok, Thailand, 19 to 21 October 1994. FAO Fisheries Report No. 512 Suppl.; People and the Planet Magazine. 1995. Requiem for a dying sea. Vol. 4 No. 2.

For freshwater production, the main systems are based on the culture of combinations of herbivorous and omnivirous finfish species. Such systems are characterized by low to moderate production inputs (extensive and semi-extensive systems) using local sources. In Egypt, which makes up 26 percent of total regional production volume, common carp culture is carried out in rice fields. The culture of marine finfish is conducted mostly in intensive culture systems such as nearshore cages and, to a lesser extent, in coastal raceways and lagoons; these systems depend totally on nutritionally complete aquafeeds with high fishmeal and oil content. In summary, aquaculture production has continued to grow well above global rates and there is good potential for expansion. In addition, in some countries, aquaculture makes a useful contribution to overall fish production; 70 percent in Israel, 50 percent in the Syrian Arab Republic and 17 percent in Egypt.

Figure 58. Fishery production by species categories


Fish consumption in the Near East and North Africa varies widely among subregions and countries and even within countries. For instance, fish consumption in Afghanistan is among the lowest in the world at a food fish supply of 0.1 kg per person per year (live weight equivalent) while in Aden (in Yemen) the corresponding figure is 40 kg per person per year. The average per caput supply in the region is only 5 kg annually. Around the Mediterranean, fish is a traditional food item prepared in many ways and with a predominant place in the cuisine, yet, even in the Mediterranean, small pelagic fish such as sardines are not as accepted as demersal fish such as seabream or large pelagic fish such as swordfish. Among small pelagics, anchovies are usually more in demand than sardines.

Figure 59. Fishery imports and exports for major trading countries in 1994

Fish are usually consumed fresh, particularly demersal fish, cephalopods and shellfish. Small Mediterranean pelagics such as sardines and anchovies are used in fresh, canned or salted form, and tuna is mainly canned. In Yemen and Oman, small pelagic fish are also dried on the beach to be used as animal feed and in Morocco and Iran they are utilized for producing fishmeal and oil. Sardines have been canned in Morocco since the First World War and the industry continues to contribute significantly to the economy. The large resources of small (4-cm long) mesopelagic fish in the Arabian Sea are not yet being exploited commercially, but exploratory fishing with vessels based in Oman and Iran has been initiated in order to produce fishmeal.

In general, the region does not contribute substantially to international fish trade, although Morocco is a major exporter of fish and is expected to increase its exports as the European demand for high-value fish increases and the Moroccan national fleet expands. Its sardine processing sector has incorporated the latest technology to allow competitive production at world prices. Other countries export mostly high-value fish, with some cephalopods and crustaceans, to European markets and Japan. A number of countries have a modest but expanding trade in fresh and frozen fish to Europe, and intraregional trade to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.


As fisheries play a minor role in most regional countries, national fisheries administrations tend to be small and, as greater efficiency becomes necessary, some administrations are shrinking, with fewer staff and funds available to provide support to the sector. In many countries, the private sector has assumed the leading role previously held by the national administration. This is particularly true in extension activities, where the sale of technical papers and back-up support by gear and engine manufacturers provide much-needed support to fishermen.

The countries of the former USSR in central Asia have been struggling to adjust to the transitional situation, and a number of operations have been divested to the private sector. Regional examples of divestment include privatizing fish farms and hatcheries, harbours, fleet and trading companies.

In general, governments have taken few firm conservation and management decisions, and only a few countries have set limits on the fishing effort or the catch of different species. In addition, in many countries, management decisions are not enforced. Management measures in the region include a total ban on trawling in the United Arab Emirates and seasonal openings only in Iran; setting a minimum mesh size for nets; protecting artisanal fisheries by creating an inshore zone from which industrial fishing is banned; closed fishing seasons; and fishing effort control.

Given the growing pressure on stocks, some governments have been reducing the availability of grants and low-cost loans for investment and steps are taken to manage the excess fishing capacity; for example, Tunisia has withdrawn all support for investment in new vessels designed to fish the overexploited Gulf of Gabes fishery and the Iranian Government has undertaken a fleet reduction programme after banning trawling in the adjacent sea as well as a fisheries management plan for the Caspian Sea (Box 17). Most governments, however, do not tax the fuel used in fishing operations and some actually provide fuel at below the world price while subsidies are generally widespread, although the current trend is to reduce public subsidies.

FAO regional fishery bodies cover most fishing areas in this region, except for inland fisheries of the central Asia region. These bodies include the Indian Ocean Fishery Commission, the FAO General Fisheries Council for the Mediterranean and the FAO Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic (CECAF). CECAF will be used for scientific and management purposes by the Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation among African States bordering the Atlantic Ocean.


Assuming that fish consumption in the region remains relatively low by world standards, it would seem reasonable to expect that, at least until 2010, a slight increase in demand could be met from higher regional landings of fish if these are not diverted for export. Factors contributing to possible increased consumption in some North African countries include economic expansion and the development of tourism. Morocco will probably show a high increase in fish consumption as the economy and fisheries sector expand. Fish consumption in Near Eastern countries is expected to remain relatively modest. The fish supply does not play, and is not expected to play, any substantial role in the food security of the subregion, but fish nonetheless constitutes an important alternative food source.

Improved management should allow greater catches of some of the stocks that are exploited intensively at present through reduced effective fishing effort; small pelagic resources in particular should form a basis for increased landings throughout the region. The Atlantic waters of Morocco have good potential to meet an increased demand for fish and fishery products. Canned sardines are sold throughout the world often to low-income groups and contribute to food security. There are also substantial stocks of mesopelagics off the coasts of Yemen, Oman, Pakistan and Iran. Relatively low-cost harvesting and processing methods will need to be developed for these stocks. In the Near Eastern subregion, aquaculture represents the main potential for increasing the fish supply. Aquaculture should also expand in the northern African coastal lagoons and sheltered areas.

Future issues facing regional aquaculture development include competition for freshwater, suitable sites and feed ingredients. There is a lack of intersectoral development planning, especially between agriculture and aquaculture. Countries facing these constraints are turning to fish culture in existing inland waters and coastal marine waters to avoid the use of arable land. In marine aquaculture, market saturation and lower prices have stimulated greater production efficiency and diversification of cultured species.

The expansion of the European market for high-value fish has led to numerous small-scale fishing enterprises being set up in Morocco, as well as improved investment in onshore processing, handling and distribution facilities.

This is a trend that could continue, although future trade with Europe may be affected by the entry into force of EU sanitary control regulations as member countries adjust to the new requirements.

7. South and Southeast Asia1

1 This review is based on the regional study prepared by the FAO interdepartmental task force, headed by M. Hotta, Fishery Policy and Planning Division, Development Planning Service (FIPP).

The region includes the countries of South and Southeast Asia, from Pakistan in the west to Indonesia in the east. The main fishing areas for these countries are the northern part of the Indian Ocean, including the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, the South China Sea and the western central part of the Pacific Ocean.

South and Southeast Asia include some of the most productive fishing waters in the world. Total regional fish production was 19.5 million tonnes in 1994, representing 27 percent of the global catch. It has been estimated that over 10 million people are employed in fisheries. Consumption of food fish varies considerably among the different subregions and countries, with particularly high per caput supplies in coastal parts of Southeast Asia and much lower consumption levels in the northern inland regions of South Asia. On average, per caput fish supplies were 9 kg in 1994 (live weight equivalent). Fish trade has expanded significantly in the region over the last decade and Thailand is the world’s leading exporter of fish and fishery products.


Marine fisheries

Figure 60. Regional fish production and share of world production in percentage

Total marine catches in South and Southeast Asia increased steadily from 9.1 million tonnes in 1984 to over 13.4 million tonnes in 1994, representing an annual compound growth rate of 3.9 percent. In the major fishing nations - India, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines - aggregate production represented more than 73 percent of total regional output. Small pelagics are more important for food supplies in this region than in any other. They accounted for somewhat less than one-third of the landings in 1994, followed by demersal species (16 percent) and tuna (10 percent). Although Penaeus shrimp catches make up less than 10 percent of the total weight, it is by far the most valuable species group exploited. Cephalopods currently provide only a small fraction of the total catch, but production has grown significantly at an annual rate of 11 percent over the last ten years.

In 1994, 64 percent of marine production (or 7.9 million tonnes) derived from the western central Pacific. Some of the main species are scads, sardinellas, tunas, snappers, shrimps and mackerels. Another 3.7 million tonnes were caught in the eastern Indian Ocean and 2.4 million tonnes in the western Indian Ocean, with mackerels, shad, shrimps and oil sardine among the major species. However, many regional landings are classified as unidentified in fishery statistics.

Most known fish stocks are approaching levels of full exploitation. Coastal demersal species have generally been heavily exploited, whereas offshore resources may have been less intensively fished to date. The general lack of catch and effort statistics make it difficult to assess these stocks, but it is believed that small pelagic stocks are still less heavily exploited in certain waters. Most stocks of Penaeus shrimp appear to be fully exploited or even depleted. Tuna stocks vary but in many areas they are fully utilized.

Cephalopod yields could increase in the future since they appear to be only moderately exploited.

A large variety of fishing methods and gear are used. Regional countries count an estimated total of 1.3 million fishing vessels, mostly small traditional boats operated often with simple gear near the coast or in rivers and flood plains. Decked vessels with inboard engines total about 99 300, with a total tonnage of 1.37 million gross registered tonnage (GRT). Between 1984 and 1992 there was a moderate increase in the number of vessels and a faster growth in total tonnage. There are also fewer very small boats, and consequently investment per fisher is increasing.

The development of national fleets means that foreign countries tend to fish less and less in the region, although distant-water fishing by developed countries is still quite common in regional waters, especially for tuna. Thailand, in particular, harvests large amounts of fish outside the region.

Inland water fisheries

Regional production from inland water fisheries increased slightly from 2.2 million tonnes in 1984 to 2.3 million tonnes in 1994. About a quarter of the total catch is taken from the extensive inland water fisheries of Bangladesh, where production reached 570 000 tonnes in 1994. Some countries have recently undertaken large-scale stocking programmes, and the increase in freshwater fish production in Bangladesh is partly owing to fisheries enhancement. India and Indonesia have considerable inland water fisheries resources and together contribute another 35 percent of total regional output. All fish catches by landlocked Laos, Bhutan and Nepal as well as most fish supplies in Cambodia come from inland waters. Furthermore, as catch statistics for inland waters in many countries do not include subsistence fishing, total production figures as well as the relative importance of freshwater fish in food supplies may be underestimated. In Thailand, it is estimated that direct consumption by fishers and their families may amount to 25 percent of the reported catch.


Total aquaculture production in the region increased spectacularly by 2.4 times from 1.8 million tonnes in 1984 to 4.4 million tonnes in 1994 (including aquatic plants). The increase in value over the same period was even more important - US$1 570 million to $9 240 million. The regional contribution to global aquaculture production was 17 percent in volume and 23 percent in value. In volume, the main producers are India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Finfish is the main species group in volume, followed by crustaceans, aquatic plants and molluscs. Crustaceans represented more than 50 percent of the total value in 1994.

Total production of farmed finfish was 3 million tonnes in 1994, mainly from freshwater. The bulk of freshwater production is a polyculture within traditional semi-intensive pond-based farming systems that contributes a low-priced source of food fish for mass domestic consumption, especially in India. The principal species cultivated belong to the cyprinid family, including roho, catla and Mrigal carp. Other species are cultivated in pens and cages (e.g. tilapia) or in coastal ponds (e.g. milkfish).

Farmed shrimp culture has developed dramatically over the last decade and production in 1994 was 692 000 tonnes. The region contributes 75 percent of total world production of cultured shrimp, the giant tiger prawn is the most popular species cultivated and the major shrimp-producing countries are Thailand and Indonesia. In several locations in the region, coastal environments have suffered from the rapid expansion of shrimp farming (Box 19).

Figure 61. Fish utilization and food supply

Figure 62. Fishery imports and exports (including intraregional trade)


Fish consumption varies throughout the region, with relatively high consumption in coastal areas and large urban centres, particularly in the eastern part of the region. In Singapore and the Philippines, average per caput food fish supplies are of some 36 kg annually (live weight equivalent), in Malaysia almost 30 kg and in Thailand around 25 kg. The Maldives has the highest annual fish supply in the world, 126 kg per person. On the other hand, in India, the most populous country of the region, the corresponding figure is only 4 kg and, as a result, the total regional average is only about 9 kg. It should be remembered, however, that consumption patterns in India vary significantly and certain coastal communities depend heavily on fish for their diet.

BOX 19
Shrimp culture and the environment

The rapid growth and expansion of shrimp farming, fuelled by high profitability and demand from mainly affluent consumers, has provided the developing countries in the South and Southeast Asian region with considerable foreign currency earnings. However, the expansion has been accompanied by environmental trade-offs. In particular, the expansion of shrimp pond areas has contributed, sometimes signficantly, to the loss of mangroves which were already under pressure from other sources. Nevertheless, many shrimp farms have been built in more suitable non-mangrove areas or in zones where mangroves had already been cleared for other reasons.

Other major environmental concerns include the salination of groundwaters and agricultural land, the impacts on shrimp larvae abundance of the collection of wild seed and pollution from the effluents of shrimp farms concentrated in areas with poorly flushed coastal waters, which often results in pollution of the surrounding waters and outbreaks of shrimp disease. Despite the recent availability of more reports on environmental impacts, the extent and severity of the effects have not always been studied with the necessary objectivity and insight. Nevertheless, it is now generally recognized that the public perception of shrimp farming, and of aquaculture generally, might be damaged by the irresponsible practices of some entrepreneurs who have caused serious environmental degradation and social disruption.

The long-term sustainability of shrimp farming is being addressed at national and international levels. Many governments, private-sector representatives, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) now advocate shrimp farming practices that are environmentally and socially acceptable. Regional activities include promoting the sustainable intensification of the traditionally extensive farming systems, environmental management in the various farming systems, integrating shrimp production and silviculture and elaborating specific policy and legal measures.

Source: ADB/NACA. 1996. Aquaculture sustainability action plan. Regional study and workshop on aquaculture sustainability and the environment (RETa 5534). Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA). Bangkok, NACA. 21 pp.; FAO. 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Rome. 48 pp.; FAO/NACA. 1995. Regional Study and Workshop on the Environmental Assessment and Management of Aquaculture Development in Asia-Pacific. NACA Environment and Aquaculture Development Series No. 1. Bangkok, NACA. 492 pp.

Although half the fish landed is marketed fresh, more frozen fish is being marketed. Fish utilization is also characterized by greater production of a wide range of value-added products or preparations, for both national and international markets. Thai processing factories still produce block-frozen tiger shrimp, but many now produce peeled and breaded shrimp and use imported raw materials from countries such as New Zealand, India and the United States when local supplies are not enough. Minced fish products, including surimi, are also produced and widely consumed in the region. Cured fish, for example dried or salted, particularly of small pelagic species, is also important. Canned fish is a popular commodity and is produced in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. The Thai canning industry uses imported raw material, particularly skipjack tuna, and re-exports the final products. In general, throughout the region, more and more fish processors rely on imports of raw material.

Post-harvest losses of fish have been substantially reduced in recent years as a result of improved infrastructure for landing, storage, transport and marketing. However, considerable seasonal losses in value still occur in some fisheries. Losses from oversupply are increasingly being channelled into feed for aquaculture.

Economic growth and policies of open trade have meant that the fish trade has expanded significantly over the last decade. Some countries, particularly the new members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Malaysia, the Philippines and India, are currently lowering their tariffs following the outcome of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Uruguay Round. The percentage of catch going into international trade has increased steadily and Thailand has ranked as the world leading exporter of fish and fishery products since 1993. Indonesia and India are the second and third most important regional exporters. Apart from Singapore, all regional countries were net exporters in value terms. Shrimp and frozen tuna contribute most to the regional export earnings from fisheries, with canned tuna and cephalopods also featuring.


The sustainability of fishery resources is a central issue in many countries. Coastal resources are generally severely overfished by an overcrowded small-scale fishery sector, where catch rates, fish sizes and quality and, in some cases, fishers’ incomes, are declining. Conflicts between small-scale fisheries and trawlers in the coastal zones are frequent and fisheries administration is made more complicated by the lack of detailed stock assessment data. Coastal fisheries management is complicated further by the variety in both resources and exploitation methods used. Experience indicates that the current centralized state management systems in many countries are not able to regulate fisheries properly over the widely scattered fishing grounds. In some countries, a partnership between local communities and central government is evolving to develop a community-based fisheries management system for local resources. Various other management measures are also implemented to improve the situation, and the fishing effort is generally regulated by some kind of licensing system concerning the number of boats or gear. The banning of trawl fishing in some areas of Indonesia is an interesting example. Trawl fishers banned from trawling switched to offshore pelagic fisheries and shrimp culture, with the result that conflicts decreased significantly.

Figure 63. Fishery production by species categories

Figure 64. Fishery imports and exports for major trading commodities in 1993

Coastal resources and habitat are severely threatened by rapid environmental degradation. Environmental degradation caused by humans through aquaculture and fish farming is a serious problem. Environmental requirements in international trade concerning the selectivity of fishing gear have affected Asia. The benefits of environmentally friendly devices, such as by-catch reduction devices and turtle excluder devices (TEDs) and the effects of using them are being reviewed. Asian protests against United States requirements to use TEDs in order to gain access to its market have been brought to the attention of WTO as a violation of international trade agreements. By-catches from shrimp and finfish trawlers are prevalent in the region. Before coastal mariculture was intensified, most by-catch was discarded at sea and only a small portion brought ashore. With the development of refrigerated sea-water systems for on-board storage and the greater demand for feed from aquaculture, much more of the by-catch is now landed. Better-quality fish is used as fish or crab feed. Other parts of the by-catch are reduced to fishmeal. In addition, the processing of fish and fish-based products has created ready markets for by-catch, although the utilization of by-catch is still influenced by the location of fishing grounds and ports, the socio-economic status of fishing communities and the available infrastructure. In poorly developed fisheries in remote areas, there may be no alternative but to discard the by-catch (Box 20).


The regional population is growing rapidly and fish is a customary source of animal protein for most people. Domestic markets are expected to grow rapidly in response to rising incomes, and higher prices on international markets will help to expand exports of high-value wild and farmed fishery products. Higher incomes also mean more intraregional trade for both high-value products and low-price fish for general consumption. By 2010, fish supplies will need to increase by 6 million tonnes merely to maintain current per caput consumption levels; the effect of economic growth on demand means even higher volumes will be needed.

Nevertheless, marine fishery resources are generally fully exploited and offer few opportunities for regional countries to increase their domestic protein supplies. Most of the pelagic fish, crustaceans and demersal species in coastal fishing grounds in the Gulf of Thailand, the Tonkin Bay, the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea have been fully exploited or depleted. Despite some moderately exploited fish stocks (e.g. anchovies and smaller tunas and cephalopods in the western central Pacific), it is unlikely that future demand will be met from significant increases in marine fish production. In fact, many heavily fished stocks will need to be rehabilitated urgently through drastic reductions in the fishing effort.

Aquaculture and, to a lesser, extent inland fisheries may provide considerable opportunities for further development to increase regional fish production, particularly in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. Nevertheless, the region will probably need to rely more and more on imports of fishery products for its future supplies.

BOX 20
By-catch and discards in Malaysian shrimp fisheries

Shrimp trawl by-catch in Malaysia generally includes finfish, cephalopods, shells and other less-valued crustaceans. Although most of the by-catch that can be marketed as food is usually taken home or sold by the fishermen, much of the remainder is considered trash fish and not used as food, although trash fish is often landed and sold as aquaculture feed.

The results of a study of the shrimp fisheries in Kuala Sepetang on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia in 1992 indicate that the by-catch of traditional fishing gear is less than that of commercial trawlerss. The shrimp trawlers had a shrimp-to-fish ratio of between 1:1.6 and 1:6.1, whereas the trammel net by-catch ratio generally ranged between 1:0.4 and 1:1.2 (with the exception of two months of the year when the by-catch volume was larger). Part of the by-catch from traditional fishing was used as feed in local aquaculture activities operated by artisanal fishermen but some shrimp trawlers discard their by-catch at sea as they can earn enough from their main catch alone and the lack of a local trash fish processing industry was given as another explanation for discarding at sea.

Source: Adnan bin Nuruddin, A. and Fong, L.C. 1994. Biosocio-economics of fishing for shrimp in Kuala Sepetang, Malaysia. Madras, India; Chee, P.E. (n.p.). A review of the by-catch and discards in the fisheries of Southeast Asia. Penang, Malaysia Fisheries Research Institute.

8. Sub-Saharan Africa1

1 This review is based on the regional study prepared by the FAO interdepartmental task force, headed by A. Bonzon, Fishery Policy and Planning Division, Development Planning Service (FIPP).

The region covers the African continent except for the North African states bordering the Mediterranean (including Morocco). Marine fishing is concentrated in the eastern central Atlantic, the southeast Atlantic and the western Indian Ocean.

Fisheries play an important role in many sub-Saharan African countries as a major contributor to animal protein supplies, a foreign exchange earner and a generator of rural employment. An estimated 8 million people are directly or indirectly employed in the sector. Total production by the countries of the region amounted to 3.9 million tonnes in 1994.2 Food fish consumption has declined recently, from an average per caput supply of about 9 kg in 1990 to less than 7 kg in 1994 (live weight equivalent). The overall trade balance of the region has been positive (in value terms) for the past decade, even though the region plays only a marginal role in international trade.

2 Excluding the production of foreign fleets that was not landed in the region.


Marine fisheries

Marine capture fisheries make up about 60 percent of regional fish production and attained some 4.2 million tonnes in 1994, including 2.3 million tonnes by regional fleets and 1.8 million tonnes caught by foreign vessels. Fisheries are concentrated in four main areas.

Figure 65. Regional fish production and share of world production in percentage

In the south, which includes the waters of Angola, Namibia and South Africa, Cape hakes provide the highest catch volumes. The main pelagic stocks are sardine and anchovy. Anchovy stocks have varied considerably, with an overall declining trend. Red crab and rock lobster are the primary crustaceans, but rock lobster catches have decreased steadily since the 1950s. Apart from some small pelagic species, most stocks are fully exploited, including most of the demersal stocks.

In the central zone, from Gabon to Guinea, resources are less abundant. The large trigger fish stock has now virtually disappeared. Traditional offshore stocks are heavily fished and the fishing effort has been increasing since 1984. In one area, recent assessments show a decrease of about 50 percent of total biomass but there are opportunities for further exploitation of the small pelagics and the demersal stocks of the deep shelf and slope in most of the southern Gulf of Guinea. Economically important localized stocks of shrimp are found primarily off the river mouths and lagoon entrances, in the Gulf of Guinea and off the northern part of the coast and resources are abundant in the northern area of the western coast. Most of the demersal stocks are fully exploited but from Mauritania to Guinea-Bissau, small pelagic species are generally abundant, with sardinellas, horse mackerels and sardines being the predominant species. Landings of these resources have decreased drastically owing to the declining fishing effort. Cephalopods are fished off Senegal, Mauritania and southern Morocco.3

3 Moroccan fisheries are examined in the review of the Near East and North Africa on p. 85.

Off the eastern coast of Africa, catches represent less than 10 percent of the total regional harvest (foreign and domestic production combined). Small pelagics are less abundant than off the western coast. Most finfish species and crustaceans are intensively fished, except off Somalia and Eritrea.

Tunas, bonitos and other large pelagics are captured offshore (by large purse seiners) and inshore (by pole and line) throughout the whole sub-Saharan Africa region.

Almost half of total regional marine production is still harvested by foreign fleets, mostly in the Atlantic Ocean, even though their catches have been declining rapidly over the last few years. Following the partial withdrawal of Eastern European and former USSR fleets from the West African coast, the total production of small pelagic species is estimated to have dropped by 72 percent between 1990 and 1992. Artisanal fisheries (canoes and small craft) land over 70 percent of domestic landings on the eastern coast and about one-half on the western coast. It appears that the artisanal sector has improved its efficiency substantially, reporting higher catches per canoe in 1990 than in 1980. The sector is labour-intensive and in some of the small island countries more than one-third of agricultural workers also work in fishery-related activities.

With few exceptions, the economic performances of both the foreign (with the exception of the tuna fishery) and domestic industrial fleets are generally weak. There is a significant turnover of local enterprises. Industrial demersal fisheries may be unstable owing to overcapacity and, more generally, to a lack of proper management - overcapacity is particularly pertinent for vessels that target cephalopods and shrimp. In terms of tonnage, the available data indicate that the domestic fleet probably doubled over the period 1980 to 1990 (mainly on the western coast). However, the increase in local vessels should not be interpreted as a net increase in fishing effort since it has been accompanied by a decrease in the fishing effort of foreign fleets.

Figure 66. Fish utilization and food supply

A large amount of by-catch, particularly from demersal and crustacean fisheries, is discarded. In shrimp fisheries, for example, only 10 to 15 percent of an estimated by-catch of about 1 million tonnes is landed. However, there is a trend towards the better utilization of by-catch through the introduction of specific regulations and the development of collecting systems at sea by local fishermen (Box 21).

Inland water fisheries

Inland water capture fisheries production has increased over the past decade at an annual rate of about 3.5 percent, attaining 1.6 million tonnes in 1994 and representing over 40 percent of total regional fish production. The main species include Nile perch, tilapia and catfish. Inland fisheries are clearly important to local food supplies; apart from the export of a few tonnes of Nile perch, the overall inland production is consumed in the region, representing nearly one-half of local supplies (imports excluded). Kenya, Nigeria, the United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda and Zaire are sub-Saharan Africa’s top freshwater fish-producing countries, contributing 70 percent of total harvests. Sub-Saharan African freshwater production is relatively localized, with Lake Victoria alone contributing one-quarter of the total.

Freshwater fisheries are almost all artisanal, and proper management is urgently needed as most fishing grounds now show signs of intensive exploitation. Reservoirs continue to be created, but their natural productivity needs to be enhanced. The current production of the larger lake systems is very close to their potential and only the lightly exploited pelagic offshore stocks can sustain higher pressure.

Figure 67. Fishery imports and exports (including intraregional trade)


Although not a traditional practice as it is in Asia, aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa is starting to expand. Still, the continent contributes only 0.2 percent of total global production and several countries have only incipient or erratic aquaculture production. A total of 33 000 tonnes of fish were produced by the region’s aquaculture in 1994. Only Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia produced more than 1 000 tonnes each, but these countries have doubled their annual production several times over the last ten years.

BOX 21
Utilization of by-catch from shrimp fisheries in the United Republic of Tanzania

Although some by-catch from shrimp trawlers has been landed in the United Republic of Tanzania since industrial trawling began in the 1960s, most has been discarded at sea. It is difficult to quantify discards, but an average shrimp-to-fish catch ratio could be estimated at 1:3 and 40 to 60 percent of the fish would be discarded. Discarding is not only a problem in industrial shrimp trawling, but also in the artisanal sector.

As well as being a marketing problem, the discarding of by-catches has often been associated with the lack of preservation facilities on-board shrimp trawlers. Recently, however, lower daily shrimp catch rates per boat mean that there is now the potential to store by-catch. Fishermen have also become more interested in selling by-catch to supplement their incomes and the government has started to regulate the landing of by-catch: shrimp trawlers should be accompanied by a fisheries officer as an observer; fishing should stop at 18.00 hours to allow the by-catch to be collected and to prevent the destruction of artisanal gear set in the same fishing grounds; and the renewal of annual fishing licences has been made conditional on landing a certain amount of by-catch. The measures are showing results as by-catch sales are increasing again and more fishermen are joining the trade; for example, in 1989, there was no by-catch collector in Bagamoyo town while in 1993 there were about ten collectors.

Nevertheless, by-catch collectors face problems regarding the type of sales agreements they use. Official negotiation with the trawling company can take up much time and involve much travelling, direct negotiation with the captain of the trawler makes the outcome of the transaction uncertain, while bartering with artisanal fishers and the crew (e.g. exchanging cigarettes or vegetables for fish) with no previous arrangements causes delays in receiving the by-catch and does not guarantee supplies. Transport can also be a problem owing to a lack of motorized craft, high costs and poor access roads to markets. Potential collectors might be discouraged by the prohibitive cost of retrieving by-catches.

Nevertheless, it appears that there is a market for by-catch and the present infrastructure can handle increased volumes of fish. By undertaking more work on the by-catch from shrimp trawlers, the system could be improved in the future with the result of improved food supplies for Tanzanian people.

Source: Government of Madagascar/UNDP-TCDC/FAO. 1995. Utilization of by-catch from shrimp trawlers. Report and proceedings of a United Nations Development Programme in Technical Co-operation among Developing Countries (UNDP-TCDC) Work-shop, Nosy Be, Madagascar, 6 to 8 June 1995.

The major species cultured include finfish (tilapias, catfish, carp), molluscs and shrimp. Freshwater fish make up over 80 percent of the total aquaculture harvest and almost all sub-Saharan African fish farming is carried out by subsistence rural operators in small freshwater ponds as a secondary activity to agriculture. Commercial shrimp culture is developing in some countries, including Madagascar, Mozambique, Guinea and Kenya. Nevertheless, further aquaculture development is hampered by weak institutional support, climatic change and reliance on external assistance for aquaculture development projects, which means that efforts are not very sustainable.


Fish is a popular food item in sub-Saharan Africa and provides 18 percent of total animal protein intake, with a share as high as 40 to 60 percent in some West African states. Fish is often consumed in small amounts with daily meals, which otherwise consist mainly of staple starch food items. Since most parts of the fish are eaten, it also contributes significantly to calcium and iodine supplies.

Considering these consumption patterns, fish consumption in the region may be more important than the per caput food fish supply figures actually suggest. According to FAO statistics, fish consumption has declined by more than 2 kg per person annually over the past few years - from a per caput supply of 8.8 kg in 1984 to 6.8 kg in 1994 (live weight equivalent). This is owing mainly to rapid population growth, a drop in imports aggravated by the weaker purchasing power of some countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea and the ever-smaller share of domestic production retained for local markets as artisanal fisheries increasingly turn to lucrative export markets. Nevertheless, most fisheries production is still utilized as food for local people. It is worth noting that there has been a similar decline in meat consumption in recent years.

Figure 68. Fishery production by species categories

Locally produced fishery products are generally marketed fresh, smoked-and-dried or salted-and-dried. Consumers prefer fresh products and about one-half of the consumption volume consists of fresh finfish, although, owing to transport difficulties, fresh products are usually available only near production centres. Women play an important role in processing and marketing, especially in western Africa. Imports are mainly of frozen products.

Constraints to intraregional trade include high transport and storage costs, poor handling practices, limited distribution networks and a lack of harmonization and proper enforcement of fish trade regulations. Tariff barriers and other trade restrictions persist among countries belonging to customs unions. The main trade is in exports of small frozen pelagics from the northwest coast southwards to the Gulf of Guinea countries.

Figure 69. Fishery imports and exports for major trading countries in 1994

Although the regional trade balance has been positive in value since the mid-1980s, sub-Saharan Africa remains a net fish importer in volume terms. Many countries have a small but growing export trade in fresh and frozen demersal fish and crustaceans, mainly to the European Union (EU), but the overall positive trade balance is based on the relatively large export volumes of only a handful of countries. Reliance on the EU market could cause difficulties in the future as trade is liberalized and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries lose their preferential status (Box 22).


Since the mid-1980s, many countries have aimed at developing medium-term sectoral plans tailored to support government macroeconomic policies, but these plans have often not come to fruition. The main obstacles to good fisheries management planning in the region are low budgets, the weak institutional base and the lack of political will to implement management policies and measures. Structural adjustments and related budget cuts have also led to fewer subsidies being granted to fisheries than previously.

BOX 22
The GATT Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations and sub-Saharan African exports of fishery products to the EU

A number of developing countries currently have access to the European Union (EU) market according to the trade provision of the Lomé Convention, an agreement between the EU and 69 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (the ACP countries). Under this agreement, fishery exports from ACP countries can enter the EU tariff-free. The sub-Saharan African ACP countries depend considerably on the EU market, to which they export 75 to 85 percent of their total fish exports. In addition to various demersal fish, two main fishery product types are exported: crustaceans, which represent about one-quarter of the value of fish exports from the region, mainly shrimp from Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Madagascar and Mozambique; and tuna, one-third of total export value, mainly canned tuna from Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritius and Senegal.

The GATT Uruguay Round in 1994 concluded that customs regimes need to be harmonized globally. For fishery products, the main outcome of the negotiations was an agreement to lower customs duties by an average of 26 percent, meaning that many importing countries will lower the tariffs for a number of products. Generally, the reduction of tariffs will be done progressively over a period of five years but, while Japan and the United States are reducing their customs duties considerably, several of the EU tariffs for fishery products remain almost unchanged. An important exception for sub-Saharan African exporters is that import tariffs for tropical shrimp will be cut from 18 to 12 percent. Canned tuna, on the other hand, will remain subject to an import tariff of 24 percent. However, current EU concessions are subject to renegotiation and further reductions may be made in the future.

For the sub-Saharan ACP countries, this development will eventually mean increased competition from other developing countries. First, the preferential margin enjoyed by the ACP countries will be eroded and, even more significant, in the spirit of the GATT principle that all trading partners should be treated equally, the future of the Lomé Convention may be in doubt. Nevertheless, the outcome of the recently negotiated international trade agreements will probably not have any immediate effects on sub-Saharan African fisheries, although in the interim period of adjustment to these trade regimes the industry will need to adapt to new conditions in order to remain competitive.

Source: FAO. 1995. Impact of the last Act of the Uruguay Round on the fisheries of sub-Saharan Africa. FAO Fisheries Circular No. 897. Rome; FAO/GLOBEFISH. 1995. Impact of the Uruguay Round on international fish trade, by A. Filhol. AO/GLOBEFISH Re-search Programme Vol. 38. Rome.

The most common measures in marine resource management are quota and licensing systems. In many coastal countries, licences are an important source of foreign exchange. Fishing agreements frequently form part of more complex negotiations, including trade. Moreover, subsistence fishers operate within the framework of traditional management systems, making resource management a complicated and delicate task.

The main characteristic of sub-Saharan African freshwater fisheries potential is its annual variability. Systems that fluctuate seasonally and from year to year in surface area - reservoirs, swamps and river flood plains - account for almost 60 percent of the total water surface area and, clearly, the biological and social management of such fisheries is particularly difficult.

Regional cooperation in fisheries policy and management has traditionally been carried out through FAO subsidiary bodies such as the Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic (CECAF). In recent years, efforts have been made to strengthen the mandate of fisheries organizations in aspects related to management or to establish new bodies such as the Ministerial Conference of African States Bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Lake Victoria Fisheries Commission. This is expected to complement the functions of the numerous economic groupings of the continent with authority in fisheries matters but which, with the exception of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), have generally not built up the necessary capacity to implement effective fisheries policy and management strategies.


United Nations projections for population growth indicate a regional population of 700 million by the year 2000 and 915 million by 2010. Assuming current levels of per caput food fish consumption, an increase of total supplies in the order of 2 million tonnes would be needed to meet demand in 2010.

The main future possibilities for increasing food fish supplies in the sub-Saharan Africa region include productivity enhancement programmes in small water bodies, aquaculture development, better utilization of small pelagic fish, relocalization of foreign fleets and increased imports. Further gains could be obtained by implementing sound fisheries management regimes, reducing discards from industrial fisheries and better post-harvest handling practices and distribution networks.

Given the modest gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecasts over the next 15 years, future prospects appear rather poor. Likely trends include further constraints on imports, increases in real fish prices, a continued demand for mainly low-value species and the continuing export of most demersal production. At the same time, lower public subsidies will increase production costs and weaken competitiveness on export markets in the process.

The implications for food security and supplies as well as for foreign exchange earnings are difficult to quantify, but might be a cause for concern in the future.

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