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UN-FAO releases 2020 edition of “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture” (SOFIA) on the occasion of “World Ocean Day”

By Amod Ashok Salgaonkar, 08 June 2020

The recently released UN-FAO 2020 edition of “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture” has a high focus on sustainability. The report indicates global fish production estimated to have reached about 179 million tonnes in 2018 out of which 156 million tonnes were used for human consumption and 22 million tonnes were destined for non-food uses. The overall first hand sales value estimated at USD 401 billion out of which Aquaculture was valued at about USD 250 Billion.

Capture Fisheries Production

In 2018, the total global capture fisheries production reached the highest level ever recorded at 96.4 million tonnes. China, Indonesia, Peru, India, The Russian Federation, The United States of America and Vietnam put together contributed more than 50% of the global capture fisheries production. Anchoveta (Engraulis ringens), Alaska pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) and Skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis) were the top three fishes with a production of about 7, 3.4 & 3.2 million tonnes respectively in 2018. Among the total capture fisheries production, 84.4 million tonnes produced from marine segment where as inland sector contributed about 12 million tonnes.

Aquaculture Production

The world aquaculture production reached all time high record of 114.5 million tonnes when included along with algae viz 82.1 million tonnes of aquatic animals, 32.4 million tonnes of aquatic algae and 26000 tonnes of ornamental seashells and pearls. In 2018, inland aquaculture produced 51.3 million tonnes of aquatic animals accounting for 62.5% of the world’s farmed fish production. Asia’s share in aquatic animal production is about 89% in last two decades. Among major producing countries; China, Egypt, Chile, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Norway have consolidated their share in regional or world production to varying degree over the past two decades. Grass carp, Silver carp and Nile tilapia were top three species in the world aquaculture production in finfish segment in 2018.

Scenario of Fishers/Fish Farmers/Fishing Fleets/Fishery Resources

In 2018, an estimated 59.51 million people were engaged in the primary sector of fisheries and aquaculture, 14% of them were women. The global total of fishing vessels from small undecked and non-motorized boats to large industrial vessels was estimated to be 4.56 million & Asia continues to be a largest contributor with 3.1 million vessels. The fraction of fish stocks that are within biologically sustainable levels decreased from 90 percent in 1974 to 65.8% in 2017. In 2017, the underfished stocks accounted for 6.2% and the maximally sustainable fished stocks accounted for 59.6% of the total number of assessed stocks.

Fish Utilisation/Fish Waste

In 2018; live, fresh or chilled fish represented the largest share of fish utilized for direct human consumption (44%). Fish oil in regard to human consumption represents the richest available source of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Various seaweeds, aquatic plants are getting used in food industry, medicines, cosmetics, water treatment and as a biofuels. It is estimated that around 35% of the global harvest is either lost or wasted every year in fisheries and aquaculture. Reducing fish loss and waste can lead to a reduction in pressure on fish stocks and contribute to improving resource sustainability as well as food security.

Fish Consumption

Per capita food fish consumption rose from 9 kg (live weight equivalent) in 1961 to 20.3 kg in 2017 and preliminary estimates shows that it has reached to 20.5 kg in 2018. In 2017, fish accounted for about 17% of total animal protein and 7% of all proteins, consumed globally. Fish segment provided about 3.3 billion people with almost 20% of their average as per capita intake of animal proteins. Africa region noted lowest per capita food fish consumption of about 9.9 kg in 2017. Since 2016, aquaculture has been the main source of fish available for human consumption.

Fish Trade

67 million tonnes of fish were traded internationally in the year 2018 which is nothing almost 38% of total fish production. The total exported/internationally traded value of fish recorded at USD 164 billion in 2018. China became the largest country in the export segment whereas United States of America was the largest importer in 2018. Fish imports by developing countries represented 31% of the global total by value and 49% by quantity (live weight). Over 90% of the quantity (live weight equivalent) of trade in fish and fish products consisted of processed products (i.e excluding live and fresh whole fish) in 2018, with frozen products representing highest share. About 70% of the quantity exported consisted of products destined for human consumption.


The COVID-19 has impacted very badly in the fisheries and aquaculture sector globally and there will be significant disruption in the short run for production, consumption and trade with a recovery in late 2020 or early 2021. The total fish production is expected to reach to 204 million tonnes in 2030 among which Aquaculture will projected to contribute around 109 million tonnes. Asia will continue to dominate in aquaculture sector and will be responsible for more than 89% of the increase in production by 2030. The share of fish production destined for human consumption is expected to grow to 89% by 2030. In per capita terms, world food fish consumption is projected to reach 21.5 kg in 2030 and about 59% of fish will likely to originate from Aquaculture. It is projected that about 36% of total fish production will be exported in 2030.

The detailed report on 2020 edition of “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture” can be found @ http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/ca9229en

Source & Courtesy: UN-FAO official website