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Global fisheries and aquaculture production reach a new record high

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San Jose, Costa Rica-

World fisheries and aquaculture production has hit a new high, with aquaculture production of aquatic animals surpassing capture fisheries for the first time, according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released on June 7.  

The 2024 edition of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) said global fisheries and aquaculture production in 2022 surged to 223.2 million tonnes, a 4.4 percent increase from the year 2020. Production comprised 185.4 million tonnes of aquatic animals and 37.8 million tonnes of algae. 

Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for 17.7 million tonnes of fisheries and aquaculture production, 8 percent of the world total, growing to 9 percent when considering only production of aquatic animals.

“FAO welcomes the significant achievements thus far, but further transformative and adaptive actions are needed to strengthen the efficiency, inclusiveness, resilience and sustainability of aquatic food systems and consolidate their role in addressing food insecurity, poverty alleviation and sustainable governance,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “That’s why FAO advocates Blue Transformation, to meet the overall requirements of better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind.” 

The SOFIA report was launched on June 8 at the high-level event on ocean action “Immersed in Change”  in San Jose, Costa Rica. 

Global aquaculture produces record amount, but Latin America and the Caribbean have untapped development potential 

In 2022, and for the first time in history, aquaculture surpassed capture fisheries as the main producer of aquatic animals. Global aquaculture production reached an unprecedented 130.9 million tonnes, of which 94.4 million tonnes are aquatic animals, 51 percent of the total aquatic animal production.    

Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for 4.3 million tonnes of aquaculture production, around 3.3 percent of world total. This makes the region the second largest aquaculture producer, albeit significantly behind Asia (91.4 percent of world total). 

At present, a small number of countries dominate aquaculture in the region. Chile and Ecuador account for 53 percent of the total aquaculture production of aquatic animals in Latin America and the Caribbean, both ranking among the top ten countries in the world.

“Targeted policies, technology transfer, capacity building and responsible investment are crucial to boost sustainable aquaculture where it is most needed”, said Mario Lubetkin, Deputy Director General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean. 

“We must promote the effective and sustainable management of all fisheries, and the sustainable intensification and expansion of aquaculture, to enhance the contribution of aquatic food systems to food security, poverty eradication, and the sustainable use of natural resources, in line with what was discussed at the recent FAO Regional Conference”, Lubetkin stated. 

Global consumption of aquatic foods rises again but region lags behind world’s average 

Record production of aquatic foods underlines the sector’s potential in tackling food insecurity and malnutrition. Global apparent consumption of aquatic animal foods reached 162.5 million tonnes in 2021. This figure has increased at nearly twice the rate of the world population since 1961, with global per capita annual consumption rising from 9.1 kg in 1961 to 20.7 kg in 2022.  

In Latin America and the Caribbean, apparent food consumption was 7 million tonnes, reflecting a per capita consumption of 10.7 kg. While there is wide variability across countries, the regional average trails only Africa, and is significantly behind the world average.  

Supporting further consumption from sustainable sources in the region is crucial to foster healthy diets and improve nutrition worldwide. Aquatic animal foods provide high-quality proteins – 15 percent of animal proteins and 6 percent of total proteins worldwide – and key nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins. In 2021, they contributed at least 20 percent of the per capita protein supply from all animal sources to 3.2 billion people worldwide.  

Most world capture fisheries production comes from sustainable stocks 

Global capture fisheries production has remained stable since the late 1980s. In 2022, the sector produced 92.3 million tonnes, comprising 11.3 million tonnes from inland and 81 million tonnes from marine capture. Despite the growth in aquaculture, capture fisheries remain an essential source of aquatic animal production.    

Capture fisheries production of aquatic animals in Latin America and the Caribbean was about 12.8 million tonnes, accounting for 14 percent of the world’s total. Peru, contributing nearly six percent of global capture production of aquatic animals, is the only country in the region ranked among the top ten global capture fisheries producers.  

At a global level, the proportion of marine stocks fished within biologically sustainable levels decreased to 62.3 percent in 2021, 2.3 percent lower than in 2019. When weighted by production level, an estimated 76.9 percent of the 2021 landings from stocks monitored by FAO were from biologically sustainable stocks. This underscores the role that effective fisheries management can play in facilitating stock recovery and increased catches, highlighting the urgent need to replicate successful policies to reverse the current declining trend. 

FAO projects rise in production and consumption 

SOFIA projects that aquatic animal production is expected to increase by 10 percent by 2032 to reach 205 million tonnes, while apparent consumption is projected to increase by 12 percent to supply on average 21.3 kg per capita in 2032. Rising incomes and urbanisation, improvements in post-harvest practices and distribution and dietary trends are expected to drive most of this increase.  

The report also presents a scenario showing the potential implications of population dynamics on the supply of aquatic animal food up to 2050. Just to maintain current per capita consumption rates of aquatic foods in 2050, Latin America and Caribbean would need to grow its supply by a further 13 percent, and even higher if the region wished to approach the global annual average of 20.7 kg per capita. This highlights the need to accelerate Blue Transformation priority actions in a world where aquatic foods play a more significant role in ending hunger, malnutrition and poverty. 

Sector employment is vital for millions 

In addition to nutrition and food security, fisheries and aquaculture are an important source of livelihoods. According to the latest data, an estimated 61.8 million people were employed in the primary sector of fisheries and aquaculture in 2022, down from 62.8 million in 2020.  

In Latin America, an estimated 2.3 million people were employed in the primary sector, 4 percent of the world total. 

Sex-disaggregated data indicated that women made up 24 percent of the overall global workforce in the primary sector, but 62 percent in the processing subsector. Gender inequality issues remain, including differences in wages, insufficient recognition of women’s contribution to the sector, and gender-based violence.  

SOFIA is an FAO flagship report that analyses the status and health of global fishery stocks as well as trends in fisheries and aquaculture at a global and regional level. The 2024 edition spotlights the concrete advances of Blue Transformation in action, showcasing the role of FAO, in collaboration with Members and partners, in driving change towards sustainable aquaculture expansion and intensification, effectively managed fisheries, and value chains that prioritize efficiency, safety and equity.

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