Half of All Fish Eaten by Humans Are Now Farmed
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LONDON — Nearly half the fish consumed in the world is now farmed rather than caught in the wild, according to figures published today by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Fish farming has grown as wild stocks decline — probably for good, the U.N. body said — as a result of over-fishing. But demand for fish continues to rise, especially in rich nations.
This “spells trouble,” according to the FAO, which said fish farming would struggle to satisfy even current levels of consumption without technological breakthroughs.
Only 9% of the fish the world consumed was farmed in 1980, while today 43% is, according to the report “The State of World Aquaculture,” published today. The Rome-based agency says the continued expansion of fish farming is probably the only way of meeting future demand. But it says the “jury is out” on whether aquaculture can deliver, because farmed carnivorous fish currently need to be fed wild-caught fish, which are themselves over-exploited.
Any expansion of fish farming is therefore dependent on the development of vegetable-based alternatives to fish oil and meal. Farmed fish, however, now amount to 45.5 million tons a year, worth $63 billion.
Currently, freshwater and marine capture fisheries produce 95 million tons annually, of which 60 million tons is destined for human consumption. Globally, consumer demand for fish continues to climb, especially in affluent nations.