Did you know that 71% of the world’s fish is consumed in Asia? Or that the global amount of fish eaten per person has more than doubled since 1961? Those are just a couple of the fascinating facts we discovered in the latest publication about the seafood industry from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

Officially titled The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), these reports have been published every two years since 1994 and as with previous editions this year’s is a thorough and important publication. Reliable data about fisheries and aquaculture is vital to those working to make these industries more socially and environmentally responsible, to measure impact and identify important areas for improvement.

The report is published every two years and provides a fascinating insight into the seafood industry

The report is an interesting read for anyone involved in fisheries or aquaculture, but if you don’t have time to read it in full we’ve picked out some of the most interesting findings about aquaculture and what we think it might mean for the future of the industry. The FAO have also summarized their report, including the statistics on fisheries, on their website.

52 per cent

That’s the share of food fish that was produced by aquaculture in 2018 – the farmed sector has provided the majority of the fish that we eat globally since 2016, and is continuing to grow. But what is really staggering about this fact is that in 1950 aquaculture provided just 4 per cent of the fish eaten globally! No other food sector has grown more rapidly.

Aquaculture has grown rapidly since the 1950s, now providing more than half of the seafood we eat

20.5 million

That’s how many people around the world are directly employed by aquaculture, and women make up about 19% of that workforce. Those are some big numbers, but they don’t tell the whole story as they just cover employment in what is known as the ‘primary sector’ of aquaculture – in other words, the direct farming – and not the ‘secondary sectors’, which include all of the roles further along the supply chain such as processing, packaging, marketing, and so on. FAO doesn’t have stats for these sectors (yet) but as the SOFIA report notes, it is widely accepted that one in every two seafood workers is a woman, meaning the industry has huge potential to help empower women around the world.

The SOFIA report also notes that the majority of those workers are in developing countries, highlighting the importance of fish farming to helping promote economic growth where it can make the most difference. As the report points out, though, many of these jobs can be “precarious” – and this increases the risk that workers can be unfairly treated or even at risk from extreme abuses such as forced labour. ASC recognises these risks which is why social requirements such as fair payment and treatment of workers are equally as important to environmental requirements in all ASC standards.

ASC Standards cover social responsibility too – such as health and safety training for staff

3.3 billion

Is how many people rely on fish for at least 20% of their total animal protein intake. The report says that:

“Fish proteins are essential in the diet of some densely populated countries where the total protein intake is low… For these populations, fish often represents an affordable source of animal protein  that may not only be cheaper than other animal protein sources, but preferred and part of local and traditional recipes.”

This is particularly true of small island developing states, as well as Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka – nations where fish contributes 50% or more of total animal protein intake.

Seafood doesn’t just provide economic security, it’s a vital source of protein in many countries

109 million tonnes

Aquaculture production is projected to grow by an incredible 32% between 2018  and 2030 – that means FAO project that production will reach 109 million tonnes in 2030, which is 26 million tonnes higher than the 2018 figure. No wonder the SOFIA report states that aquaculture production “is anticipated to fill the supply-demand gap.”

This continued growth means it is absolutely essential to ensure aquaculture is done responsibly, by minimising negative environmental and social impacts. The projected growth represents a huge potential to feed the world’s growing population while also helping develop economies and livelihoods – but if not done responsibly, it also represents a risk to the environment.

Looking to the future, SOFIA has a number of sections on the sustainable growth of the industry, including how it can meet some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What are the SDGs?

The SDGs are at the heart of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a blueprint for improving peace and prosperity for all people. It recognises that these goals require joint action on a number of separate but often interconnected issues, and these are covered by the 17 SDGs. You can see all of the SDGs and read more about their development on the UN website.

ASC’s work helps contribute to a number of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

ASC’s work helps to meet many of these SDGs. To name just a few:

SDG 2 to end hunger and ensure food security – as the SOFIA report makes clear, aquaculture can help to achieve this by providing people with healthy protein.

SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production – responsible production is at the heart of ASC’s mission, and it encompasses not only minimising environmental impacts but also being socially responsible, treating workers and communities with respect.

SDG 14: Life below water – this is an obvious one for ASC, as our standards ensure that certified farms are doing everything they can to reduce their impact on the oceans, rivers, and lakes in which they operate.

ASC’s Feed Standard will also require responsible sourcing of land-based ingredients

SDG 15:  Life on land – perhaps a less obvious one for ASC, but our standards include a number of protections out of the water as well. An example is the strict prohibition on mangrove removal in the ASC Shrimp Standard, as these coastal forests play a vital role in their ecosystems. The ASC’s upcoming Feed Standard, meanwhile, requires that ASC farms only use feed that has been produced responsibly, and it doesn’t just cover fishmeal or marine-based ingredients, it also covers any  land-based ingredients such as soy, wheat, and palm oil.

It’s hard to summarise a report as thorough as SOFIA in one blog but hopefully this has given you  an idea of the potential of the aquaculture industry to feed us into the future, but also the critical importance of making sure future growth of the industry is sustainable and responsible.

Published on
Friday, 19 June 2020
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