Aquaculture is a millennia-old activity that has evolved slowly, often by building on traditional knowledge, advances gained through farmers’ curiosity, needs, positive experience and errors, or cooperation. As a result, it has expanded for centuries, integrated with its natural, social, economic and cultural environments. Major developments in aquaculture have benefited from scientific progress in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The result in terms of growth has been unprecedented, and aquaculture now supplies more than half of the world’s fish for human consumption (Source).

However, there have also been undesirable environmental impacts at the local, regional and global levels. These detrimental effects include social conflicts between users of land and aquatic resources (especially water), and the destruction of important ecosystem services. Moreover, recent aquaculture undertakings have raised concern and societal debate, especially with regard to: poor site selection; habitat destruction (e.g. of mangroves); the use of harmful chemicals and veterinary drugs; the impact of escapees on wild stocks; inefficient or unsustainable production of fishmeal and fish oil; and social and cultural impacts on aquaculture workers and communities.

In order to provide easily-accessible and up-to-date information, the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Division has developed specific pages on aquaculture where users can consult relevant material on aquaculture at international, regional and national level.

For additional aspects on how aquaculture fits within FAO’s wider programme of work, see:

Definition of Aquaculture

Aquaculture: The farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some sort of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated, the planning, development and operation of aquaculture systems, sites, facilities and practices, and the production and transport.
For more terms related to aquaculture, see:

Selected Aquaculture Facts

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In 2018, world aquaculture fish production reached 82.1 million tonnes, 32.4 million tonnes of aquatic algae and 26 000 tonnes of ornamental seashells and pearls, bringing the total to an all-time high of 114.5 million tonnes. The farming of aquatic animals in 2018 was dominated by finfish (54.3 million tonnes, USD 139.7 billion), harvested from inland aquaculture (47 million tonnes, USD 104.3 billion) as well as marine and coastal aquaculture (7.3 million tonnes, USD 35.4 billion). Following finfish were molluscs (17.7 million tonnes, USD 34.6 billion) – mainly bivalves – crustaceans (9.4 million tonnes, USD 69.3 billion), marine invertebrates (435 400 tonnes, USD 2 billion), aquatic turtles (370 000 tonnes, USD 3.5 billion), and frogs (131 300 tonnes, USD 997 million).

The contribution of world aquaculture to global fish production reached 46.0 percent in 2018, up from 25.7 percent in 2000, and 29.7 percent in the rest of the world, excluding China, compared with 12.7 percent in 2000. At the regional level, aquaculture accounted for 17.9 percent of total fish production in Africa, 17.0 percent in Europe, 15.7 percent in the Americas and 12.7 percent in Oceania. The share of aquaculture in Asian fish production (excluding China) reached 42.0 percent in 2018, up from 19.3 percent in 2000.

Inland aquaculture produced most farmed fish (51.3 million tonnes, or 62.5 percent of the world total), mainly in freshwater, compared with 57.7 percent in 2000. The share of finfish production decreased gradually from 97.2 percent in 2000 to 91.5 percent (47 million tonnes) in 2018, while production of other species groups increased, particularly through freshwater crustacean farming in Asia, including that of shrimps, crayfish and crabs. In 2018, shelled molluscs (17.3 million tonnes) represented 56.3 percent of the production of marine and coastal aquaculture. Finfish (7.3 million tonnes) and crustaceans (5.7 million tonnes) taken together were responsible for 42.5 percent, while the rest consisted of other aquatic animals.

Fed aquaculture (57 million tonnes) has outpaced non-fed aquaculture, the latter accounting for 30.5 percent of total aquaculture production in 2018 compared with 43.9 percent in 2000, although its annual production continued to expand in absolute terms to 25 million tonnes in 2018. Of these, 8 million tonnes were filter-feeding inland-water finfish (mostly silver carp and bighead carp) and 17 million tonnes aquatic invertebrates, mostly marine bivalve molluscs.

Marine bivalves and seaweeds are sometimes described as extractive species; they can benefit the environment by removing waste materials, including waste from fed species, and lowering the nutrient load in the water. Culture of extractive species with fed species in the same mariculture sites is encouraged in aquaculture development.

Fish farming is dominated by Asia, which has produced 89 percent of the global total in volume terms in the last 20 years. Over the same period, the shares of Africa and the Americas have increased, while those of Europe and Oceania have decreased slightly. Outside China, several major producing countries (Bangladesh, Chile, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Norway and Viet Nam) have consolidated their shares in world aquaculture production to varying degrees over the past two decades. China has produced more farmed aquatic food than the rest of the world combined since 1991. However, because of government policies introduced since 2016, fish farming in China grew by only 2.2 percent and 1.6 percent in 2017 and 2018, respectively. China’s share in world aquaculture production declined from 59.9 percent in 1995 to 57.9 percent in 2018 and is expected to decrease further in the coming years.

The high annual growth rates in world production of aquatic animals at 10.8 percent and 9.5 percent witnessed in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively, have slowed gradually in the third millennium. The average annual growth rate was 5.8 percent in the period 2001–2010 and 4.5 percent in the period 2011–2018. Despite the slow growth at the world level, a high growth rate in the period 2009–2018 was still observed in a number of countries, including major producers such as Indonesia (12.4 percent), Bangladesh (9.1 percent), Egypt (8.4 percent) and Ecuador (12 percent).

An estimated 59.51 million people were engaged (on a full-time, part-time or occasional basis) in the primary sector of capture fisheries (39.0 million people) and aquaculture (20.5 million people) in 2018, a slight increase from 2016. Women accounted for 14 percent of the total, with shares of 19 percent in aquaculture and 12 percent in capture fisheries. Of all those engaged in primary production, most are in developing countries, and most are small-scale, artisanal fishers and aquaculture workers. The highest numbers of workers are in Asia (85 percent), followed by Africa (9 percent), the Americas (4 percent), and Europe and Oceania (1 percent each). When post-harvest operations data are included, it is estimated that one in two workers in the sector is a woman.

COFI Sub-Committee on Aquaculture

Established by the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) at its Twenty-fourth Session in 2001, the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture provides a forum for consultation and discussion on aquaculture and advises COFI on technical and policy matters related to aquaculture and on the work to be performed by the Organization in the subject matter field of aquaculture.

Regional Aquaculture Reviews

In continuing the global efforts to achieve aquaculture sustainability through dissemination of up-to-date information on the status and trends of the sector, FAO produces Aquaculture Regional Reviews. These reviews aim at providing a comprehensive and reliable perspective, over the past 5 years, of the aquaculture status and trends in the main regions of the world, and globally, emphasizing salient issues and success stories, highlighting future trends and considering likely scenarios. These reviews can be of interest and pertinent use to national governments, regional organizations, policy-makers, farmers, investors, civil society organizations, research and training institutions and the general public.

Information Products and Fact Sheets

Thematic Areas

Statistical Information

World Aquaculture Performance Indicators

World Aquaculture Performance Indicators (WAPI) are a collection of user-friendly tools for compiling, generating and providing easy access to quantitative information on aquaculture sector performance at the national, regional and global levels. Information and knowledge products developed under WAPI include data analysis tools and associated technical papers and policy briefs.

Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries

Fisheries, including aquaculture, provide a vital source of food, employment, recreation, trade and economic well-being for people throughout the world, both for present and future generations and should therefore be conducted in a responsible manner. This Code sets out principles and international standards of behaviour for responsible practices with a view to ensuring the effective conservation, management and development of living aquatic resources, with due respect for the ecosystem and biodiversity. The Code recognizes the nutritional, economic, social, environmental and cultural importance of fisheries and the interests of all those concerned with the fishery sector. The Code takes into account the biological characteristics of the resources and their environment and the interests of consumers and other users. States and all those involved in fisheries are encouraged to apply the Code and give effect to it.

FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries: Aquaculture Development

FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture technical guidelines are produced on request by FAO member countries during FAO Conference on Fisheries (COFI) sessions and are drafted to reinforce and detail contents of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and Aquaculture. Hereafter a list of all the Technical Guidelines and supplements within the Aquaculture Development article.

See also

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