Numbers of fishers have doubled since 1970, according to new FAO figures

The number of men and women around the world making an income by fishing and fish farming has more than doubled since 1970, according to new statistics released by FAO. This compares with an overall growth in agricultural employment of 35 percent. FAO Fishery Statistician Adele Crispoldi said,"This growth is mainly related to the increase in size of fishing fleets and to the expansion of aquaculture". An overwhelming majority of fishers - some 95 percent - are from developing countries.

Bangladeshi fisherfolk show off their catch

The new figures show that in 1970 about 13 million fishers produced 65 million tonnes of fish, aquaculture included. In 1990, over 28 million people produced 98 million tonnes. FAO estimates for 1996 indicate that some 30 million fishers and fish farmers produced 116 million tonnes of fish.

Asia - where about 85 percent of the world's fisher population lives - is the heart of the world's fishing industry. In 1995, China's 11.43 million fishers produced 2.1 tonnes of fish each - totalling nearly a quarter of world production. In Africa, fishing is still largely artisanal, though countries are gradually industrializing. In the search for food security, fish is increasingly valued as a source of protein and income. Small-scale fish farming is actively promoted by FAO through its Special Programme for Food Security in many African countries.

FAO has warned that many fishery resources are overexploited and declining. About 35 percent of the 200 major marine fish resources are showing declining yields, while about 25 percent are plateauing at high-exploitation levels. FAO estimates that a drastic reduction of at least 30 percent of world fishing capacity is necessary to allow overfished resources to recover.

26 February 1998

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