The recent 2018 edition of Seafood Expo Global (SEG), the world’s biggest seafood trade industry exhibition that’s held annually in Brussels, Belgium at this time of year, gave a stark reminder of the importance of seafood as one of the most-traded food commodities, with the total export value alone amounting to more than US$ 150 billion. But beyond the commercial aspects and the deals that were struck at this huge international stakeholder gathering, SEG18 further illustrated the growing significance of fisheries and aquaculture as sources of food, nutrition, income and livelihood for many millions of people around the world.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the world’s per capita fish supply is now at a record high of 20kg. And yet with the planet’s population forecast to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, much more seafood is required to help ensure food security and adequate nutrition for us all.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FISH
While there are large fluctuations depending on geography, wealth and culture, at present fish accounts for an average 17% of the human intake of animal protein and 6.7% of all protein consumed. Within that, it provides more than 3.1 billion people with almost 20% of their average per capita intake of animal protein.
Furthermore, as a food, seafood has a lot going for it. In addition to being an excellent source of easily digested, high-quality proteins containing essential amino acids, it provides essential fats, vitamins and minerals. It’s also widely accepted that even consuming small quantities of seafood can have a significant positive nutritional impact, providing health and development benefits for people of all ages.
OUR SEAFOOD SUPPLY
Total capture fishery production stands at more than 93 million tonnes while aquaculture provides a further 74 million tonnes, with a rising proportion of these harvests going directly to human consumption. However, with the global demand for seafood growing at an unprecedented rate and the output of wild capture fisheries static at current levels, the onus has been on aquaculture to supply increasingly larger volumes. By and large, it has risen to this challenge with the human consumption of farmed fish and shrimp eclipsing that of products from wild fisheries some four years ago. To illustrate how far it has come, aquaculture’s contribution to our seafood consumption was just 7% in 1974.
The FAO recently highlighted that aquaculture has built good momentum because most of the seafood it produces is destined for human consumption. At the same time, the sector’s ability to dependably harvest many different species of finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants has also enabled strong gains. Around the world, a total 580 species or aquatic species groups are being farmed to be eaten, including 362 finfish, 104 molluscs and 62 crustaceans.
With regards to meeting the seafood needs of 2050’s population, the general consensus is that aquaculture has the capacity to continue to grow at its present rate, if not higher, and the farming of aquatic products will become an increasingly prominent source of food globally. But it’s also accepted that, to make a greater contribution to sustainably feeding 9.7 billion people, seafood sector stakeholders need to address a much broader set of challenges, not least improving resource utilisation and reducing waste at all levels of the supply chain.
Some valuable guidance has been provided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the coming 15 years. While SDG 2 seeks to end hunger and food security, SDG 12 resonates very closely with the management of bycatch, reduction of discards and decreasing food loss and waste. SDG 14, meanwhile, calls for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources.
Successfully meeting these and other goals requires industry-wide undertakings and SEG18 provides further assurances that the seafood sector – Pittman Seafoods included – is most definitely onboard.