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World review of fisheries and aquaculture



In 1995 and 1996 total world fish production expanded rapidly, reaching 121 million tonnes in the second year. Aquaculture output grew dramatically during the biennium while capture fisheries production registered a slight increase. Supplies for human consumption increased considerably, rising from 14.3 kg per caput (live weight equivalent) in 1994 to 15.7 kg in 1996. However, this increase was almost entirely due to raised production reported for mainland China.1 Excluding mainland China, at 13.3 kg, the average food fish supply for the world in 1996 remained close to the level recorded during the first half of the 1990s but was somewhat lower than that of the 1980s. Catches destined for the production of fishmeal and fish oil (reduction) contracted somewhat. (These trends in production and utilization are shown in Figures 1 and 2 and Table 1.)

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Trade increased during the 1996-1997 biennium, although at a slower pace than in the previous two years, and the value of world exports of fish and fishery products reached US$52.5 billion in 1996, with developing countries achieving a net trade surplus of US$16.6 billion.


Capture fisheries

Total capture fisheries production in 1996 amounted to 94.6 million tonnes. China, Peru, Chile, Japan, the United States, the Russian Federation and Indonesia (in that order) were the top producer countries in 1996, together accounting for more than half of world capture fisheries production in terms of tonnage (Figure 3). Marine capture fisheries continued to account for more than 90 percent of world capture fisheries production, with the remainder coming from inland waters.

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World marine capture fisheries production reached a new record of 87.1 million tonnes in 1996 (Table 1). However, as in previous years, the rate of increase continued to slow during the biennium. In the 1950s and 1960s, total world marine fisheries production increased on average by as much as 6 percent per year, doubling from 17 million tonnes in 1950 to 34.9 million tonnes in 1961, and doubling again in the following two decades to reach 68.3 million tonnes by 1983. In the following decade, the average annual rate of increase dropped to 1.5 percent and to a mere 0.6 percent during the 1995/96 biennium. The Northwest Pacific remains by far the most important fishing area in terms of both volume and value of landings (Figures 4 and 5).

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World fisheries production and utilization









(million tonnes)



















Total inland
























Total marine








Total aquaculture







Total capture







Total world fisheries










Human consumption














1 Preliminary estimate.

For the world as a whole, therefore, landings of marine fish are continuing to level off. This is also the general trend for most major fishing areas of the world, where fisheries have evolved from a phase of increasing fishing effort and production to one in which production has stagnated and in some cases declined (i.e. a senescent phase). Judging from known fish stocks and resources of traditional fisheries, the total marine catches from most of the main fishing areas in the Atlantic Ocean and some in the Pacific Ocean would appear to have reached their maximum potential some years ago, and substantial total catch increases from these areas are therefore unlikely.

The relatively stable marine capture fisheries production total for the last three years masks some major fluctuations for individual species. Major increases in landings between 1995 and 1996 were recorded for capelin, chub mackerel and Japanese anchovy, whereas major decreases between 1994 and 1995 were observed for South American pilchard and anchoveta as well as Japanese pilchard. In 1995, six species - anchoveta, Alaska pollock, Chilean jack mackerel, Atlantic herring, chub mackerel and capelin - accounted for 25 percent of total capture fisheries production (Figure 6).

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Distant-water fisheries production2 has declined sharply since 1990 (Figure 7), mainly owing to the demise of the state-sponsored fleets of the former USSR. Japan had the largest distant-water fisheries production in 1996, with total catches of 668 000 tonnes. This is Japan's lowest figure since 1963, as the country's distant-water production has declined steadily since the early 1970s when it amounted to about 2 million tonnes.

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State of marine fish resources. Overall, the state of exploitation of the main fish stocks (in fisheries for which assessment information is available) has remained more or less unchanged since the early 1990s. Recent reviews tend to confirm that, among the major fish stocks for which information is available, an estimated 44 percent are fully exploited and are therefore producing catches that have reached or are very close to their maximum limit, with no room expected for further expansion. About 16 percent are overfished and likewise leave no room for expansion; moreover, there is an increasing likelihood that catches might decrease if remedial action is not undertaken to reduce or suppress overfishing. Another 6 percent appear to be depleted, with a resulting loss in total production, not to mention the social and economic losses derived from the uncontrolled and excessive fishing pressure, and 3 percent seem to be recovering slowly.

Fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic, the Southeast Atlantic and the Eastern Central Atlantic reached their maximum production levels one or two decades ago and are now showing a declining trend in total catches. In the Northeast Atlantic, the Southwest Atlantic, the Western Central Atlantic, the Eastern Central Pacific, the Northeast Pacific and the Mediterranean and Black Seas, annual catches seem to have stabilized, or are declining slightly, after having reached a maximum potential a few years ago. The declining and flattening catch trends in these areas are consistent with the observation that these areas have the highest incidence of fully exploited fish stocks and of stocks that are either overexploited, depleted or recovering after having been depleted.

The main areas where total catches still follow an increasing trend and where, in principle, some potential for increase still exists are the Eastern and Western Indian Ocean, the Western Central Pacific and the Northwest Pacific. These areas tend to have a lower incidence of fully exploited, overexploited, depleted or recovering fish stocks, with relatively more underexploited or moderately exploited stocks. However, these areas are also the ones with the largest incidence of stocks whose state of exploitation is unknown or uncertain, and for which production estimates and stock assessments are consequently less reliable.

Quotas for cod stocks: an update

The quotas for Atlantic cod in the Barents Sea were reduced by about 195 000 tonnes or approximately 22 percent from 1997 to 1998. However, about 13 000 tonnes of the Norwegian 1997 quota was not caught and the share of the Russian quota not caught is expected to be even higher - approximately 40 000 tonnes. Consequently, the decrease in catch from 1997 to 1998 might not be as large as the quota indicates. According to Norwegian experts, the reduction is not expected to be of the same scale in the near future.

Iceland has also increased its cod quota, raising it by 32 000 tonnes to 218 000 tonnes for the period from 1 September 1997 to 31 August 1998. By 1 January 1998, 144 000 tonnes of the Icelandic quota had not been taken, which is about 30 000 tonnes more than the previous year. The outlook for future output from Icelandic waters is also good, although very weak results in the Barents Sea loophole1 in 1997 indicate a pause in the Icelandic cod fishery in this area. In the Pacific, the major cod-catching country is the United States, and it is reducing its quotas from 270 000 tonnes in 1997 to 210 000 tonnes in 1998.

1 An international fishing area surrounded by national EEZs.
Source: H. Josupeit. FAO Fisheries Department.

Inland capture fisheries production. Nominally, exploitation of inland fisheries resources amounts to 7.6 million tonnes, equal to 8 percent of total capture in 1996. Exploitation is mainly of finfish, although molluscs (7 percent) and crustaceans (6 percent) may be locally important. The production of reptiles, including crocodiles, alligators and caimans, is recorded by number and reached slightly more than 1 million in 1996 (including cultured production).

Six of the ten top producers for inland capture fisheries are in Asia: China, with a production of nearly 1.8 million tonnes, produces 23 percent of the world total and nearly three times as much as the second largest producer, India. Altogether, the top ten producer countries account for about 62 percent of world landings from inland capture fisheries.

In Africa, the majority of freshwater fish landings consist of Nile perch, followed by Nile tilapia, other tilapias, dagaas and silver cyprinid. These reflect both the importance of large lake fisheries (Lake Victoria, at its peak, accounted for about one-fourth of all of the inland catch from Africa) and the fact that more complete catch data are available for these fisheries than for smaller water bodies.

Inland catches mainly consist of: cyprinids as a group, snakeheads and shads in Asia; European perch, common carp, northern pike and roaches in Europe; of Azov Sea sprat, freshwater bream, roaches and pike perch in the CIS and the Baltic states; of characinids and freshwater siluroids in Latin America; and of lake whitefish, yellow perch, crayfish and catfish in North America.

State of inland fish resources. Based on total inland capture for the period 1984-1996, it is clear that increasing use is being made of inland fisheries resources. The average annual increase is about 130 000 tonnes (about 2 percent per annum), and exploitation is most intensive in Asia and Africa (Figure 8).3

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Looking broadly at continental areas, neither the present state of nor the short-term outlook for inland aquatic resources is encouraging. An increase in the loss and degradation of land and forest resources and of biodiversity and habitat as well as the growing scarcity and pollution of freshwater can be observed in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and West Asia.4 Europe and the CIS and the Baltic states are also experiencing increasing biodiversity loss and habitat degradation. On the other hand, in North America, land degradation is decreasing.


Aquaculture provided 20 percent of global fisheries production (and 29 percent of food fish) in 1996. Most aquaculture production (15.1 million tonnes) originated in freshwater. Of the remainder, 9.7 million tonnes were produced in marine environments and about 1.6 million tonnes in brackish water environments (Figure 9). These figures are excluding the production of aquatic plants, which amounted to 7.7 million tonnes in 1996.

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Global production of aquaculture continues to be dominated by China, which in 1996 accounted for more than 67.8 percent of world output (Figure 10). However, given the relatively low value of carp and seaweeds, which dominate Chinese culture, its contribution to the world value of aquaculture production was just 45.4 percent. Japan, on the other hand, accounted for 4 percent of total world aquaculture production by weight but for more than twice that share by value because of the high-value species cultured (e.g. amberjack, scallops and oysters).

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The dominant global aquaculture activity in 1996 continued to be finfish production, accounting for about 49 percent of total aquaculture production by weight and 55 percent by value (Figure 11).

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As in previous years, freshwater finfish, in particular Chinese and Indian carp, accounted for the greatest share (42 percent) of total aquaculture production. Aquatic plants, 70 percent of which come from China, were valued at nearly US$5 billion and represented almost one-quarter of total production in 1996. A key factor in the rapid production growth of some species of finfish and crustaceans is the increasing availability of hatchery-produced seed, in turn a reflection of a wider diffusion of the expertise needed for successful hatchery operations.

While finfish account for almost 99 percent of freshwater aquaculture production, they account for less than 10 percent of culture in the marine environment (Figure 12).

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In 1996 the production of kelp, Laminaria japonica, totalled just more than 4 million tonnes (Table 2). In terms of volume, this production figure made it the most important species in aquaculture for that year. In fact, two of the top ten aquatic species produced through culture were plants. It is worth noting that all these top species are low in the food chain, i.e. they are either primary producers, filter feeders or finfish that, in their adult stage, are herbivores or omnivores.

World cultured aquatic production: top ten species in 1996, ranked by volume

Common name

Latin name



(million tonnes)


Laminaria japonica


Pacific cupped oyster

Crassostrea gigas


Silver carp

Hypophthalmichthys molitrix


Grass carp

Ctenopharyngodon idellus


Common carp

Cyprinus carpio


Bighead carp

Aristichthys nobilis


Yesso scallop

Pecten yessoensis


Japanese carpet shell

Ruditapes philippinarum


Crucian carp

Carassius carassius


Nile tilapia

Oreochromis niloticus


Because of its high unit value, the giant tiger prawn tops the list of species ranked according to the total value (ex farmgate) of production (Table 3). Nearly all giant tiger prawn production is carried out in a tropical environment and the product exported to developed economies. This particular activity therefore provides a significant contribution to some Asian and Latin American economies.

World cultured aquatic production: top ten species in 1996, ranked by value

Common name

Latin name



(billion US$)

Giant tiger prawn

Penaeus monodon


Pacific cupped oyster

Crassostrea gigas


Silver carp

Hypophthalmichthys molitrix



Laminaria japonica


Common carp

Cyprinus carpio


Grass carp

Ctenopharyngodon idellus


Atlantic salmon

Salmo salar


Yesso scallop

Pecten yessoensis


Japanese carpet shell

Ruditapes philippinarum


Bighead carp

Aristichthys nobilis


The other high-value species that is not among the ten with the highest production figures is Atlantic salmon, which is grown in cold climates where a large share of it is also consumed.

Although a few advanced economies such as Japan, Norway and the United States feature among the top producers (Figure 10), aquaculture production is carried out predominantly in low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs) .

By 1996, 27.9 million tonnes, or around 82 percent of world total finfish, shellfish and aquatic plant production originated in LIFDCs. The contribution of this group of countries to world production has increased sharply since 1990 (Figure 13). At 16.7 percent, between 1990 and 1996 the average expansion rate of the aquaculture sector within LIFDCs was nearly six times that in non-LIFDCs, which recorded 2.9 percent overall. Most of the production comes from six countries, with China accounting for about 83 percent (Figure 14).

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Monitoring hatchery production: at least 160 million fry a day!

To improve the utilization of aquatic biodiversity, governments need information on hatchery output. However, the collection of information on this subject is not always systematic, since a central mechanism for collating related data is often lacking.

At the request of FAO, therefore, member countries have recently submitted hatchery production statistics, and these have been analysed, revealing a total reported production for 1996 of 58 000 million fry and/or fingerlings, i.e. almost 180 million juveniles per day! Of these, 99 percent were finfish. The majority of this reported hatchery production was intended for "release to the wild".

The data supplied are most complete for those countries where inland waters have traditionally been stocked for recreational fishing. The most consistent data have been obtained from Australia, Belgium, Croatia (since 1992), Cuba, Cyprus, Finland, France, Latvia, Malaysia, Morocco, Panama, the Republic of Korea, South Africa (since 1993), Switzerland and the United States.

Figures A and B show hatchery production of rainbow trout (for Cyprus) and brown trout (for Finland) as examples of similar species used for different purposes.

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Source: A.J. Immink. Visiting scientist (aquaculture), FAO Fisheries Department.

Numbers of fishers and fishing vessels

Information provided recently by FAO member countries on numbers of fishers5 and fishing vessels6 indicates that, while the expansion of fishing fleets seems to be slowing down, the number of fishers appears to be rising relatively fast. However, as the number of fishers includes individuals engaged in aquaculture - and not separately identified in most cases - the increase in the number of participants in capture fisheries is in fact slower than the overall figures suggest.

Fishers. Recent information on the number of fishers7 is scarce, as few countries collect and publish annual estimates. Among those that do are China, Iceland, India, Japan and Norway, data for which are presented in Table 4. As can be expected, the figures show that, while the numbers of fishers are shrinking in capital-intensive economies, they are expanding in economies that are still predominantly labour-intensive.

Number of fishers (including fish farmers) in selected countries1










2 300 000

2 950 344

3 460 345

4 740 483

5 071 940

5 396 370











549 357

457 380

242 990

202 000

193 000












4 895

5 946

6 951


5 661

5 635











104 000

2 008 913

1 741 265

2 045 701

2 394 1743












21 000

19 425

20 475

16 442

17 160

17 087









1 The data for Japan and Iceland include part-time fishers.
2 Japan's data for 1994 and 1995 do not include women engaged in fisheries and aquaculture. These figures have been reported separately and are, respectively, 55 460 and 54 230.
Estimate (1995 data unavailable).
... = data unavailable.

Non-decked vessels. The numbers of non-decked fishing vessels, more than 90 percent of which are found in Africa and Asia, have expanded only marginally since 1985.

Decked fishing vessels. Information provided by countries indicates that that the number of decked fishing vessels - like marine fish landings - is increasing but at a declining rate (Figure 15). This contrasts with a more rapid expansion witnessed during the period 1970-1989. The aggregate of the fleet tonnage (GT) has displayed a similar development.

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Between 1980 and 1997, China's fleet of decked fishing vessels increased from about 60 000 to 460 000 vessels (Figure 16). Without this increase, the number of decked fishing vessels in the world would have remained stable during the period.

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A study of Lloyd's Register of Shipping8 reveals that fishing vessels above 100 GT have decreased in number over the last seven years, as the decommissioning of vessels has outpaced new constructions. In 1991, there were slightly fewer than 26 000 fishing vessels of this class in Lloyd's Register; in 1997, the number was about 22 700, which is below the number of vessels recorded for the year 1985. Of the vessels currently in the register, more than 10 000 are 20 years old or more and are likely to be decommissioned or scrapped over the next decade. However, given that Lloyd's Register has incomplete statistics for Chinese fishing vessels, the known increase in the size of the world fishing fleet (of vessels above 100 GT) is not evident in its records.

The register shows that there has been a long-term reduction in the building rate for vessels of more than 100 GT, with construction at its lowest in 1997. According to a provisional estimate, only 155 vessels were built in that year.

Tonnage measurement and fishing capacity

For a given type of fishing gear, a vessel's capacity to catch fish is determined by a combination of several of its physical characteristics as well as many intangibles such as the skill of the captain and crew. While it may be theoretically possible to determine the fishing capacity of one design relative to another, it may not be practical to do so in consideration of the elaborate formula that would be required to give proper weight to every characteristic or variable related to capacity.

Any survey aimed at determining the capacity of a fishing vessel or of a fishing fleet would need to cover information on a number of vessel characteristics, of which gross tonnage (GT), length and engine power would be among the most important. Of these, GT is probably the most significant single variable influencing fishing capacity and, in many respects, it is a good compromise between having a perfect measure or none at all.

Tonnage is often confused with the measure of displacement, or weight, of a vessel. In fact it refers to the size of the vessel, and not to its weight. Its origin dates back to the fifteenth century when a standard-sized barrel, called a tun, was decreed in England for the purpose of measuring ship capacity, eventually referred to as tunnage, or tonnage. However, the method of tonnage measurement has since evolved and differs considerably from country to country.

Unification of this unit of measure for large ships on international voyages was a slow process. A number of international meetings held since the 1930s concluded with the 1969 International Convention on Tonnage Measurement of Ships (referred to as the London Convention), which entered into force in July 1982. It applies to ships undertaking international voyages, although ships of less than 24 m (and warships) are exempt. Furthermore, GT as defined by this convention only became obligatory for all vessels (more than 24 m long and engaged in international voyages) after 18 July 1994. Until then, the system of tonnage defined by the 1947 Convention for a Uniform System of Tonnage Measurement of Ships (the Oslo Convention) continued to be valid. This system applied the gross registered ton (GRT) as the unit of measure.

An important point to note is that the GT of a given vessel can be significantly greater than its GRT because, under the London Convention, certain parts of the vessel (e.g. enclosed spaces above the upper deck) are included in GT whereas they were previously excluded from GRT. This means that many vessels that were below 100 GRT prior to 1994 are now being classified above 100 GT. Therefore, as the existing fleet is being reclassified, the size of the world fishing fleet consisting of vessels "above 100 tons" will be increasing. Much care must be taken not to confuse this increase in the number of vessels with an increase in fishing capacity, as in reality the capacity has not changed, only the measurement used.

Source: J. Turner. FAO Fisheries Department.


Fish for food

In recent years, the volume of fishery products marketed in their fresh state has increased not only in absolute terms but also as a percentage of all uses of fish. In 1996, about 33 percent of all fish was marketed fresh compared with 20 percent in 1986 (Figure 17).

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The supply of frozen fish is growing in both developed and developing countries. The production of frozen fish fillets, shrimps and prawns has increased in volume, as has the supply of fish in the form of ready-to-eat meals and other convenience food products.

Fish for feed

After 1994, when nearly 32 million tonnes of fish (representing nearly 30 percent of the total world fisheries production) were used for feed, there was a decrease in this usage in 1995. As a consequence of the El Niņo phenomenon, the stocks of small pelagics in the Eastern Pacific are expected to shrink and the volumes landed in the course of 1998 may consequently be several million tonnes below those recorded in 1996.


Fish, shellfish and fishery products are widely traded, with no less than 195 countries having exported part of their production and some 180 countries having reported fishery imports of varying amounts in 1996. In parallel with the increase in production, international trade has continued to grow, and at an accelerating rate in recent years. The largest part of this growth is real in that it is linked to the expansion of the world's economies and also reflects the increased availability - owing mainly to aquaculture production - of species in high demand as well as the sustained demand for fishmeal. Another part of the increase is fictitious, or nominal, as it is due to trade among countries that were formerly part of one political entity.

Export volumes reached 22 million tonnes in 1996 (Figure 18), which is nearly three times the volume traded in 1976 and, when reconverted into the estimated live weight equivalent, represents 40 percent of overall fisheries production. This level has been reached after a period of relative stability, with foreign trade accounting for around 30 percent of production.

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In 1996, the export sector earned US$52.5 billion, representing 11 percent of the value of agricultural exports and about 1 percent of total merchandise trade. The share of trade in fish and fishery products in all agricultural trade has increased somewhat over the last decade.

Although fishery trade is not prominent at the global level, in some countries its contribution to foreign currency earnings is vital to the national economy; for example, fish and fishery products represent more than 75 percent of total merchandise exports for Iceland, the Faeroe Islands, Greenland, Maldives and Seychelles. In a further 20 countries, including Chile, Ecuador, Kiribati, Madagascar, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Peru and Senegal, fisheries exports account for between 75 and 10 percent of total merchandise exports. Despite the importance of fisheries to their economies, none of the above countries accounts for a significant share of the world market and, even taken together, their exports account for only 15 percent of the total. In a further 38 countries, fishery exports in 1996 contributed between 9 and 2 percent of trade receipts. Among these countries were Thailand, with net earnings of US$3.2 billion, and Indonesia, with net earnings of US$1.6 billion.

In terms of value, fishery exports are almost entirely (95 percent) composed of food products, although, in terms of volume, fishmeal and fish oil account for a much greater share (Figure 19). In value terms, more than half of the fishery export trade originates in developing economies and consists largely of imports into developed economies. While Thailand was the leading world exporter of fish products between 1993 and 1996, at a value of US$3.4 billion, Norway's fishery exports were the highest in 1997. Japan, with US$15.5 billion worth of imports in 1997, is the leading importer while the United States absorbs about 10 percent of world fish imports. These two countries and the European Community (including the value of the intra-EC trade) import 75 percent (in value terms) of internationally traded fishery products.

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The shortage of shrimp on the world market continued in 1997. With an output of some 175 000 tonnes, Thailand continues to be the world's main supplier of cultured shrimp, although this figure represents a substantial drop from two years earlier. Other Asian suppliers also reported a lower output in 1997. By contrast, Ecuador's shrimp output is growing and broke a new record during that year, as its production was helped by larger amounts of larvae collected from the wild, a situation that was favoured by El Niņo.

The United States shrimp market was very strong, owing to the country's expanding economy and to the high value of the US dollar. A strong domestic demand, combined with limited supplies on the world market, led to record prices. In only one year, prices grew by 20 percent, with even higher increases experienced for large-sized shrimp. United States imports expanded by 10 percent in 1997, allowing it to overtake Japan for the first time as the world's major shrimp market. Asia as a whole maintained its share of the United States market, as smaller exporting countries in the region, such as Indonesia (12 800 tonnes, +29 percent) and China (12 900 tonnes, +68 percent), showed very good performances in 1997.

Japanese imports of shrimp fell by 7 percent in 1997 to only 267 200 tonnes, the lowest figure in nine years. A downward trend was apparent throughout the whole of 1997, not only in the closing months when the economic crisis hit the country. Short supplies of tropical shrimp, high prices and a weaker yen contributed to the decline in shrimp consumption on the Japanese market.

In 1997, after 13 years, India again became the major supplier of shrimp to the Japanese market. Indian shrimp exports to Japan increased by 6.6 percent to a record 59 100 tonnes. Some of this shrimp was redirected to Japan as a result of an EC ban on Indian seafood, which started in August 1997. Indonesia lost its top position because of disease in its shrimp farms, and its exports to Japan fell by 11 percent. Thailand experienced similar problems in its farms, and its shrimp exports to Japan declined by 30 percent.


In general, tuna catches continued to be low in 1997. In the Eastern and Western Pacific, the El Niņo phenomenon led to lower catches in the opening months of the year while, in the Atlantic, catches were also low. The tuna fleets in the Indian Ocean were successful in targeting skipjack.

Domestic landings of tuna in the 42 major harbours of Japan increased to 385 000 tonnes in 1997, up from 340 000 tonnes in 1996 but still about 17 000 tonnes short of the 1995 result. This figure, however, only gives a partial indication of the overall performance of the Japanese fleet, as another 300 000 tonnes of the catch are landed in other ports of Japan or outside the country and sent directly to canneries in the United States and Thailand. Apart from bluefin, higher landings were reported for all tuna species in 1997, with strong increases for fresh skipjack and frozen albacore.

Japan is the world's major market for tuna products, of which its apparent consumption exceeds 1 million tonnes or nearly 30 percent of world tuna catches. About 70 percent of this consumption is accounted for by domestic production while the remainder comes from imports.

In 1997, Japanese imports of tuna amounted to 311 000 tonnes, a 5 percent decline from the 326 000 tonnes imported in 1996. Imports of yellowfin tuna dropped by 22 percent in 1997 and bigeye imports were also reduced. Taiwan Province of China continues to be the main exporter of tuna to Japan, despite a 20 percent decrease to about 76 800 tonnes in 1997. This is 47 percent below the maximum volume of Taiwanese tuna exports to Japan, which was recorded in 1993.

The Republic of Korea is the second major exporter of tuna to the Japanese market. Shipments expanded in 1997, almost regaining the levels recorded in the early 1990s.


The world market for highly priced, whitefish fillets is starting to accept cheaper substitutes. There is already a growing acceptance of fillets of hoki from New Zealand both in Europe and the United States. Since 1995, New Zealand hoki exports have benefited from reduced EC tariffs, resulting in an increasing proportion being directed to the European market. In the United States market, farmed whitefish, mainly catfish but also tilapia, is increasingly replacing wild capture groundfish. However, in Europe, hoki, catfish and tilapia are not fully accepted substitutes, and this is leading to higher prices in the region, as has already been seen in the case of cod.

The composition of United States imports of frozen whitefish changed during 1997. While the total volume of blocks and slabs was practically the same as in 1996, imports of minced whitefish decreased by 17 percent in volume. Pollack remained the predominant species, accounting for about 57 percent of total imports of frozen whitefish blocks. However, imports of pollack block dropped by approximately 7 percent in 1997, with most of this decrease accounted for by lower volumes from the Russian Federation. Imports of cod blocks show the opposite tendency, having increased by about 40 percent. Imports of flatfish blocks also increased, doubling in volume between 1996 and 1997.

A shift was evident in the United States market for frozen fillets and steaks in 1997. Cod imports increased by about 9 500 tonnes, while Alaska pollock imports decreased by approximately 6 000 tonnes. In general, imports of species and products from the North Atlantic increased, while products derived from Alaska pollock decreased.

The market for traditional whitefish fillets and blocks is influenced by the market situation for surimi and roe and also by the market for salted and dried whitefish. This is because the raw material is the same and flexible production units can to some extent change the production mix according to the current market situation. While Alaska pollock traditionally has been the species utilized for surimi, most salted and dried products are derived from cod. As a result of the financial crisis in Asia, the situation in the surimi and roe market is somewhat turbulent but, nevertheless, the demand for salted and dried groundfish is expected to be relatively stable or even to increase slightly.

Between 1996 and 1997, imports of Alaska pollock surimi into Japan decreased slightly to 125 000 tonnes. However, imports of hake or cod surimi increased by about 53 percent to more than 26 000 tonnes, with the United States supplying almost 95 percent of this volume. Itoyori surimi imports increased by more than 30 percent to 37 000 tonnes, two-thirds of which were supplied by Thailand. Imports of Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) fillets increased from 11 141 to 13 767 tonnes, with Chile as the main supplier.


Peruvian fishmeal production dropped to 1.66 million tonnes in 1997, about 0.3 million tonnes less than in 1996, and Chile's production dropped by 0.2 million tonnes to 1.2 million tonnes. During the same period, fishmeal production in Europe increased; production in Norway, Denmark and Iceland was 0.1 million tonnes greater than in 1996.

Despite lower production, however, Peruvian fishmeal exports increased in 1997, with 1.96 million tonnes exported - about 0.3 million tonnes more than in 1996. This record export left the country with no fishmeal in stock at the end of 1997. Peruvian consumption of fishmeal was halved during the year. In 1997, Chilean fishmeal exports were 0.1 million tonnes below the volume reached in 1996. High fishmeal prices resulted in increased export earnings for South American countries overall, despite lower production. Prices touched a peak of US$721 per tonne in December 1997, when Peru's fishmeal exports were valued at US$990 million.

Fish oil

Fish oil production in Peru declined sharply from 415 000 tonnes in 1996 to 280 000 tonnes in 1997. Nevertheless, exports of fish oil were higher in 1997 than in 1996, expanding in value terms to reach US$95 million.

1 Chinese production statistics held by FAO for several species of molluscs have undergone a major revision since the last issue of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, which was based on information available up to mid-1996. While the numerical production data received from China had been understood to be in live weight units (i.e. including shell weight), the data for some species of molluscs in fact reflected meat weight. As FAO statistics on mollusc production are recorded on a live weight basis, an upward revision has been made for all years. The revision mainly affects aquaculture production statistics.
2 Distant-water fisheries production is defined here as catches taken in FAO fishing areas that are non-adjacent to the flag state of the fishing vessel used.
3 The intensity of exploitation in this case is calculated in terms of capture in tonnes of landed weight, contrasted with surface areas (km2) of the continents and their lakes and swamps.
4 UNEP. 1998. Global State of the Environment Report 1997. Nairobi.
5 For details see FAO. 1997. Numbers of fishers. FAO Fisheries Circular No. 929. Rome.
6 For details see FAO. 1998. Bulletin of Fishery Statistics, No. 35. Rome.
7 For a review of trends in numbers of fishers over the period 1970-1990, see the section Fishers and fishing fleets.
8 Information drawn from Lloyd's Register of Shipping is provided under exclusive licence by Lloyd's Maritime Information Services (LMIS).

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