Aquaculture continues to be of increasing importance in the global supply of seafood. In fact, 2014 was the first year in which the human consumption of aquaculture products exceeded that of products from wild fisheries.
According to the latest biennial food outlook report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), world aquaculture production is expected to grow by 5% during 2015 for the second year running, thereby accounting for an even larger share of the growing global supply of seafood.
The report estimates the overall fish production increased by 1% to 164.3 million tonnes in 2014, boosted by a 5% expansion of aquaculture yields to 74.3 million tonnes, which compensated for a 2% contraction in wild fish output to 90 million tonnes.
The reduction in capture fisheries production mainly reflected reduced anchoveta catches, caused by the El Niño climatic phenomenon.
Not including anchoveta, the top three capture species by volume are Alaska pollock, skipjack tuna and sardines. In aquaculture, the highest volume species (excluding aquatic plants and carp) are tilapia, shrimp and catfish.
In value terms, it’s the high-value species such as shrimp, salmon, tuna, groundfish, flatfish, seabass and seabream that are the most widely traded. In this regard, shrimp continues to be the largest single commodity in value terms, accounting for about 15% of the total value of internationally traded fishery products. However, salmon’s share of the global seafood trade has increased strongly in recent decades to 14% thanks to the expansion of aquaculture production in northern Europe and in North and South America.
Delving into some of the headline trends, FAO’s report confirms that strong consumer demand from the US and EU markets underpinned international fish trade throughout 2014 and into 2015, but that more people worldwide are appreciating the health benefits of regular fish consumption.
Direct human consumption, which accounts for more than 85% of all seafood uses, is projected to grow by 2% to 147.5 million tonnes this year, resulting in a slight increase in the global per capita fish intake, from 20kg in 2014 to 20.1kg in 2015.
Additionally, the expected recovery in world wild fish catches in 2015 is predicted to foster a 9% rebound in the usage of fish as feed, which is mostly destined for aquaculture operations.
Although subject to fluctuations depending on individual species, fish prices remained at relatively high levels throughout 2014. As a result, FAO estimates the value of the fish trade reached a record $143.9 billion or €131.1 billion last year.
The overall outlook for the global seafood trade in 2015 is generally positive, with expected production growths for key species like shrimp and salmon.
At the same time, anchoveta catches are predicted to increase this year, which is good news for the growing number of aquaculture producers who use anchoveta as feed ingredients.
Thanks to increases in wild and farmed production, FAO’s report forecasts that fish production will reach 168.6 million tonnes in 2015, up 2.6% from last year, while the value is forecast to grow modestly to $144.5 billion or €131.6 billion.
It’s also worth noting that 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. A groundbreaking and negotiated document, the code lays out principles and standards for national and international efforts to ensure sustainable production of seafood.
It serves as the basis for the development of various new instruments to address new challenges related to areas such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) and small-scale fisheries.