Reviews 2010
Cover World Aquaculture 2010

State of world aquaculture 2010

Global production of fish from aquaculture has grown substantially in the past decade, reaching 52.5 million tonnes in 2008, compared with 32.4 million tonnes in 2000. Aquaculture continues to be the fastest-growing animal food producing sector and currently accounts for nearly half (45.6 percent) of the world’s food fish consumption, compared with 33.8 percent in 2000. With stagnating global capture fishery production and an increasing population, aquaculture is perceived as having the greatest potential to produce more fish in the future to meet the growing demand for safe and quality aquatic food.

According to FAO, it is estimated that by 2012 more than 50 percent of global food fish consumption will originate from aquaculture. Although precise data are lacking, it is acknowledged that, with growth in volume and value of aquaculture production in the past decade, aquaculture has made a positive contribution to national, regional and global economies, poverty reduction and food security. Nonetheless, it is recognized that proper positioning of the aquaculture sector’s contributions, based on precise data, is important to formulate well-informed policies, strategies and plans that governments and development partners will consider favourably for increased support and funding.


Global aquaculture, however, has not grown evenly around the world. There are marked intraregional and inter-regional and country variations in a number of areas, such as production level, species composition, farming systems and producer profile. The Asia–Pacific region continues to dominate the aquaculture sector, accounting for 89.1 percent of global production, with China alone contributing 62.3 percent of global production. Moreover, of the 15 leading aquaculture-producing countries, 11 are in the Asia–Pacific region. A few countries dominate the production of some major species, such as carps by China; shrimps and prawns by China, Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia and India; and salmon by Norway and Chile. In terms of farming systems, while all three systems – extensive, intensive and semi-intensive – are practised in most regions, intensive systems are more prevalent in North America and in advanced aquaculture-producing countries in Europe and Latin America. In the Asia–Pacific region, despite major technical developments in the aquaculture sector, small-scale commercial producers continue to remain the backbone of the sector, contributing the bulk of aquaculture production. Small-scale producers and small and medium entrepreneurs are also important players in Africa. Commercial and industrial-scale producers dominate in Latin America, but there is strong potential for the development of small-scale production. In the past decade, a number of developments have contributed to the significant growth of the global aquaculture sector, namely: formulation and implementation of policies, strategies, plans and legislation; dissemination and use of applied research; and emergence of new domestic and international markets. An encouraging trend is that an increasing number of countries have formulated or are in the process of formulating fisheries policies, strategies, plans and legislation that will facilitate the growth and efficient management of the aquaculture sector. For example, in Africa, the spectacular development of aquaculture in countries such as Egypt, Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda has been due to government policies that favour the private sector. In Europe, the European Union’s 2002 aquaculture strategy achieved its objectives of ensuring an environmentally sound industry, providing safe aquatic food, and guaranteeing animal health and welfare. Moreover, as part of its good governance principle, the follow-up strategy for sustainable development of European aquaculture was prepared in consultation with stakeholders. There are also cases of many countries adapting and strengthening their aquaculture legislation to address competition for scarce land and water resources from other economic development activities such as agriculture and tourism through zoning, licensing, environmental assessment, management and control measures. In the past decade, the Asia–Pacific region has witnessed two significant research and development (R&D) programmes: the development of the genetically improved farmed tilapia strain of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), which has been hailed as a landmark achievement in the history of genetic improvement of tropical finfish; and the closing of the life cycle of the southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii), although the commercial production of bluefin tuna seed is still a long way away. Research and development achievements in Europe have also contributed to improved efficiency of farming systems, leading to the production of better-quality fish. Examples of new technologies include the development of underwater surveillance to manage feeding and biomass, the upscaling of recirculation systems, the development of cages and nets that can be used in higher energy locations, and the application of the integrated multitrophic aquaculture concept into production. In addition, to address the issue of the sustainability of the use of fishmeal and fish oil in aquafeeds, global research efforts continue to find affordable and high-quality plant and animal-based feed ingredients. The regional networks of aquaculture centres have also been playing a vital role in conducting collaborative R&D programmes and disseminating research findings. In line with the increased growth of global aquaculture production, there has been an impressive development of trade in many aquaculture products. Two aquatic products from the Asia–Pacific region stand out: a significant shift from the indigenous giant tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) to the exotic whiteleg shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) and the explosive growth in production of the striped catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus) in Viet Nam. Moreover, there has been an increasing globalization of the fisheries value chain, including the outsourcing of certain processing operations to countries with lower labour costs. Another parallel development is the integration of producing and processing activities, as in the case of salmon by large producers in Chile. While the demand for aquaculture products continues to increase, there is growing recognition of the need to address consumers’ concerns for quality and safe products and animal health and welfare. Thus, issues such as food safety, traceability, certification and ecolabelling are becoming increasingly important and considered as high priority by many governments. Achieving the global aquaculture sector’s long-term goal of economic, social and environmental sustainability depends primarily on continued commitments by governments to provide and support a good governance framework for the sector. It is encouraging that the experience of the past decade indicates that many governments remain committed to good governance. As the sector further expands, intensifies and diversifies, it should recognize the relevant environmental and social concerns and make conscious efforts to address them in a transparent manner, backed with scientific evidence. In the process, the sector should also prepare itself to face the potential impacts of climate change and global economic crisis, and make special efforts to further assist small-scale producers by organizing them into associations and through promotion of better management practices, as has been successfully demonstrated in many countries. It is hoped that, as the new decade unfolds, a stronger and more confident sector will stand ready to face and overcome the future challenges and move further along the path to sustainability.

cover consensus

Phuket Consensus: The Kyoto Strategy for Aquaculture Development adopted in 1976 facilitated the transformation of aquaculture from a traditional to a science-based economic activity. It promoted technical cooperation among developing countries to expand aquaculture development.

The UNEP Convention on Biological Diversity that came into effect in 1993 reflected the world community's commitment to manage biodiversity for the welfare of present and future generations The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries promulgated in 1995 enshrined the principles of sustainability and responsibility in the practice of fisheries, aquaculture and trade in aquatic products.

Cover Review Europe

Europe. In 2008, European fish and shellfish farmers produced some 2.5 million tonnes worth US$9.4 billion. European aquaculture is considered a world leader in the production of some high value species (salmonids, European seabass, gilthead seabream, turbot) and contributes significantly to global aquaculture development through knowledge and technology transfer. The recently renewed EU Strategy for the Sustainable Development of European Aquaculture aims to address growth challenges faced by the industry, and thereby to make European aquaculture more competitive, ensure sustainable growth and improve the sector's image and governance.

Cover Review North America

North America. The aquaculture industry in North America produced 644 000 tonnes of product in 2008 with an estimated value of US$1.6 billion. The finfish industry is at the forefront of the aquaculture sector, led by the production of Atlantic salmon in Canada and channel catfish in the United States of America. Future significant growth in the North American aquaculture industry will require policies and regulations that protect the environment while ensuring the economic viability of the sector in an increasingly competitive international arena.

Cover Review Latin America and Caribbean

Latin America and the Caribbean. Aquaculture in Latin America and the Caribbean produced 1.76 million tonnes in 2008, valued at US$7.2 billion and has grown at double (18.5 percent) the world’s average growth rate in the last 30 years. Three countries – Chile, Brazil and Ecuador – account for 74.5 percent of the volume and 77.9 percent of the value farmed in the last triennium. Production is concentrated in few species and largely in industrial farms. Governance improvements are required to increase access to markets and the performance of small-scale farmers. Local natural conditions, good governance, political will and better science should permit substantial aquaculture progress in the region and greater contribution to food security and livelihoods.

Cover Review Sub-Saharian Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2008 aquaculture production in Sub-Saharan Africa was 239 000 tonnes, a five-fold increase with respect to 1998 and with a value of US$665 million.  The bulk of the production is from tilapia and the African catfishes. The greatest catalyst for increased production has been the emergence and intensification of private sector led small and medium size enterprises stimulated in some cases by growing public support and the inflow of foreign capital and expertise.  There are opportunities for integrating aquaculture with other activities, for enhancing exports of high value species, and for strengthening institutional capacity building. There is need for research, technology development and investment to improve sustainability of existing farming systems and there is significant scope for improved human resources development.

Cover Revire Near East and North Africa

Near East and North Africa. Modern aquaculture in the Near East and North Africa Region began in the late 1920s but only in the last decade it increased sixfold reaching a production of 910 000 tonnes with a value of  US$2.1 billion in 2008. The main driving forces for such expansion  included an increased public health awareness and interest in fish products and the enactment of enabling policies supported by research, technology transfer and sector developmental incentives. Five countries in the region contributed almost the totality of the regional production dominated by tilapias and mullet. Promotion of an economically sustainable aquaculture industry in the region has been challenging, particularly with regard to freshwater fish farming. Yet, the region has a great potential to expand its industry through the employment of suitable and environmentally friendly technologies. Furthermore, mariculture development is still at an early stage, but expanding rapidly.

Cover Review Asia-Pacific

Asia-Pacific. The review covers Oceania, South, Southeast, East and Central Asia. In 2008, the region produced 46.6 million tonnes (excluding aquatic plants) with a value of about US$77 billion, more than 70 percent produced  in China. Asia contributes to 92.5 percent of the world’s total aquaculture production by volume but the region also consumed 70 percent of the global output. The outstanding characteristics of the region are the dominance (except in Central Asia) of small-scale mostly commercially oriented farms and the dominance of freshwater species.  The region has a high rate of food fish consumption (29 kg per person per year) and to maintain this level, it should produce an additional 30–40 million tonnes by 2050 to meet the demand from a growing population. From past performance, it is seen to be capable of doing so, but will have to resolve a range of productivity, environmental, social and market access issues.