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Farming closes in on wild production

Aquaculture's annual growth rate, worldwide, has
    averaged 6.8 percent so far this decade. - Photo by F. Botts, courtesy of FAO
- Steven Hedlund
October 01, 2006

In just a few years, people around the world will likely be eating more farmed seafood than wild seafood, says the Food and Agriculture Organization's Subcommittee on Aquaculture, which met in New Delhi, India, early last month.

"It won't be long," says Dr. Rohana Subasinghe, a senior fishery resources officer for the FAO and secretary of the Subcommittee on Aquaculture, who suspects aquaculture will surpass wild production by 2012.

Aquaculture represented 43 percent of the global seafood supply in 2004, up from 9 percent in 1980, according to a report the FAO released at the meeting.

The world's dependence on aquaculture will continue to grow because the world's population is increasing, sea­food consumption worldwide is rising and wild-seafood production has leveled off, "probably for good," says Subasinghe.

About 100 billion pounds of farmed seafood worth $63 billion were consumed worldwide in 2004, compared to roughly 132 billion pounds of wild seafood.

Asia grew 91.5 percent of the world's farmed seafood in 2004. China raised 69.6 percent, followed by India at 4.2 percent, the Philippines at 2.9 percent, Indonesia at 2.5 percent, Japan and Vietnam at 2.1 percent each and Thailand at 2 percent. North America grew only 1.3 percent of the world's farmed seafood.

Aquaculture experienced its largest average annual growth rate worldwide in the 1950s at 12.3 percent, followed by the 1990s at 10.5 percent and the 1980s at 8.6 percent. Between 2000 and 2004, aquaculture's worldwide annual growth rate averaged 6.8 percent.

About 150 people from 50 countries attended last month's third biennial meeting of the Committee on Fisheries' Subcommittee on Aquaculture. The first meeting was held in China, the second in Norway.

The third and fourth meetings will be held in Chile and Thailand, respectively.

"The meeting serves two purposes," says George Kou­rous, information officer for the FAO.

"On the one hand, it lets countries get together and engage in policy debates and share perspectives and experiences, explain their national [aquaculture] policies to one another, iron out differences, come to agreement and establish closer ties.

"At the same time, these meetings provide an opportunity for FAO member countries to tell us where we should be focusing our efforts. Their recommendations to us form the basis of our work on aquaculture for the next two years."

Also at the meeting, the Subcommittee on Aquaculture introduced a set of non-binding principles for responsible shrimp farming that governments, NGOs and private companies can use as a guide to certify shrimp as eco-friendly or sustainable.

Its purpose is to harmonize the guidelines already addressing the environmental and social aspects of shrimp farming, says Subasinghe.

Shrimp exports from developing countries total $8.7 billion a year.

The World Bank, World Wildlife Fund and Network for Aquaculture Centres for Asia Pacific were among the organizations that helped develop the principles. The U.S.-based Global Aquaculture Alliance endorses the principles.

- Steven Hedlund

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