The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) biennial State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report is an important reference document for the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), enabling us to keep track of the scale and scope of our work to drive up standards across the industry.

The latest report was published at the end of June 2022. Here are our main take-aways and what they mean for ASC:

  • Aquaculture production is at a record high (122.6 million tonnes in 2020)

In 2020, animal aquaculture production reached an all-time high of 87.5 million tonnes: 6% higher than in 2018, 30% higher than the average in the 2000s, and more than 60% above the average in the 1990s.

Asia continued to dominate world aquaculture, producing 91.6% of the total output. In addition to aquatic animals, a further 35.1 million tonnes of algae were produced for food and non-food use, plus 700 tonnes of shells and pearls for ornamental use, making a live weight total of 122.6 million tonnes in 2020.

The figures show the relevance for ASC to aim for truly global coverage. ASC’s current 11 species-specific standards cover around 45 % of the animal aquaculture production. With the upcoming aligned Farm Standard ASC will be able to further increase this share. ASC also operates a joint seaweed standard with MSC that covers all species of macro and micro algae.

  • If done sustainably, the sector has great potential to feed the world’s growing population

As aquatic production has increased, the contribution of aquatic foods, excluding algae, to global food security and nutrition has increased at an average annual rate of 3% since 1961, to reach 20.2 kg per capita. Consumption today is more than double that in the 1960s. Improvements in post-harvest practices and changes in dietary trends are projected to drive a 15% increase in aquatic food consumption, to supply on average 21.4kg per capita in 2030.

While aquaculture will play an ever-increasing role in providing a steady supply of resource efficient and affordable seafood, aquaculture can add to the pressure on ecosystems if not conducted responsibly. The report therefore highlights the relevance of ASC’s mission of transforming the sector towards more sustainable practices. 

  • Aquatic food production supports millions of livelihoods but needs uplift working conditions for small scale producers

According to the SOFIA report, 20.7 million people are engaged just in the primary aquaculture production sector, of which 28% are women. The report demonstrates that small-scale producers are still vulnerable, with sometimes precarious working conditions. ASC social audits, which are included in all our fish, shellfish, algae and feed standards, can really make a difference here – ensuring that farms meet health and safety requirements, pay fair wages, treat workers well and engage with local communities. Additionally, the ASC Improver Programme has been developed specifically to support improvements in farms that cannot achieve ASC certification, which is often the case with small or less technical operations. This approach is fundamental to make certification more accessible, ensuring sustainability and equitable development at a global level.

  • A ‘Blue Transformation’ is necessary

In the report, the FAO calls for a targeted ‘Blue Transformation’ to help achieve a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable fisheries and aquaculture sector that can meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The growth of fisheries and aquaculture is vital in our efforts to end global hunger and malnutrition, but further transformation is needed in the sector to address the challenges. We must transform agri-food systems to ensure aquatic foods are sustainably harvested, livelihoods are safeguarded, and aquatic habitats and biodiversity are protected,’’ FAO Director General, QU Dongyu said.

ASC recently researched how our standards, requirements and assurance systems address SDG targets. We found that 49% of the 169 SDG targets are within the scope of the aquaculture industry and that the ASC programme addresses more than 80% of those targets in scope, across all 17 SDGs, either well or very well.

Published on
Thursday, 28 July 2022
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