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Driven by rising real incomes and urbanization, apparent per capita consumption of food fish in the world, including China, reached 24.8 kg per year in 2001, almost five times that of 1961 (FAOSTAT, 2004), and this in spite of a rise in food fish prices, both in real and relative terms. The increase in per capita consumption, combined with population growth, has led to world consumption of food fish more than tripling over the same period. To meet the growing demand for food fish, supply has come increasingly from aquaculture. Production of food fish from the capture fisheries has increased by a slow 1.2 percent annually since the early 1970s, whereas output from aquaculture (even without China) has grown by an annual compounded rate of more than six percent.

Output from the capture fisheries will continue to grow slowly, if at all, so aquaculture must expand to meet growing demand for fish. Population growth, rising per capita incomes and urbanization are expected to fuel a growing demand for fish. According to the sanguine view that "if the past history of agriculture is any guide, aquaculture will surely find a way to meet the world’s demand for fish" (The Economist, 2003, p. 21), technological advances, induced by higher fish prices, can replicate agricultural food production. Increased supply will come from expanding areas of cultivation (e.g. ponds and offshore cages) and higher yields per unit area (e.g. selective breeding and improved feed). However, as a relatively new industry, aquaculture also faces growth constraints. Environmental concerns and social opposition may inhibit its growth. These factors could prevent aquaculture from expanding sufficiently to meet demand without very large price increases, which, in turn, would have negative implications for the poor and their access to food.

Acknowledging the challenges the aquaculture sector may face in coming years to expand its production, and underlining the need for suitable development planning, the Twenty-fifth Session of the Committee on Fisheries established a Middle-Term Plan (2004 - 2009) which recommended that a "global analysis of economic and social trends in fisheries and aquaculture" be carried out in order to "enhance international and regional collaboration based on a more accurate and common understanding of long-term trends and emerging issues" (p. 21).

One means of judging whether forecasts of aquaculture expansion are realizable is to study national aquaculture plans. With their expected future aquaculture output, national plans can be aggregated to see whether they are compatible with general equilibrium forecasts. By providing insights into future directions, they are also indicative of national production ambitions, which realism can be assessed through a close examination of underlying production assumptions and their economic and environmental implications.

It is not the task of this study to make new supply and demand forecasts for fish products, this type of analysis having already been done by a number of scientists at a global scale (their findings are detailed in section 2.1). Instead, this study focuses on national aquaculture development plans and individual country’s production forecasts whilst using the global projections made from independent organisations as a benchmark against which to measure the realism and relevance of forecasts and assumptions underlying them. Over the last ten years, a recurrent question has been: "can aquaculture fill the gap?" (Ruckes, 1994). Yet attempts to answer it have come mainly from the analytical efforts of experts in the field, at a global level, and without much consideration to producing countries’ ambitions and capacity to contribute to filling the future fish demand gap. This study aims to rectify this oversight by investigating aquaculture producers’ endeavours. Individual country plans will not be compared to one another, nor their contents and results critically judged, but rather placed in a global context of aquaculture development that requires suitable planning, to both fulfil expectations and occur in a coordinated manner.

The report attempts to answer three questions:

1) Do individual countries have the ambition to expand to meet global demand forecasts, and are their projections realistic?

2) Is the "sum" of national production forecasts compatible with global projections of the sector’s growth - i.e. will this sum match projected increases in demand for food fish? - raising the additional question of "who’s projections are most accurate?"

3) What planning lessons can be learnt from examining individual country plans, and how could the process of aquaculture planning be improved?

Findings from this study aim to shed light on medium and long-term development policies necessary to ensure the sustainable contribution of aquaculture to aggregate fish supply, and therefore, to meeting national and world demand for fish and fishery products.

The report is structured around the investigation of each question, after the methodological approach adopted for the study is presented. The first section will explain the methodology adopted and the countries selected. The second will answer questions 1 and 2 above by analyzing individual countries and regions within the context of global forecasts. A final section attempts to learn from the plans "best practices" to support policy-makers in the future formulation of accurate aquaculture development plans.

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