Aquaculture Tries to Fill World’s Insatiable Appetite for Seafood

Total global fish production, including both wild capture fish and aquaculture, reached an all-time high of 154 million tons in 2011.1 Wild capture was 90.4 million tons that year, up 2 percent from 2010.2 This followed a 1.6-percent decline from 2009 to 2010.3 The 2011 global capture figure nearly matched the 2007 total of 90.3 million tons, which broke a four-year pattern of declining global wild capture.4 Since the late 1980s, however, wild capture production has essentially stagnated.5

Aquaculture, in contrast, has been expanding steadily for the last 25 years and saw its largest increase in 2010, when it grew 8.7 percent to 59.9 million tons.6 In 2011 production rose again by 6.2 percent, to 63.6 million tons.7(See Figure 1.)

Aquaculture Figure 1

Aquaculture currently provides almost half of the fish consumed globally and is expected to top 60 percent by 2020.8 Growth in fish farming can be a double-edged sword, however. Despite its potential to affordably feed an ever-growing global population, it can also contribute to problems of habitat destruction, waste disposal, invasions of exotic species and pathogens, and depletion of wild fish stock.9

 

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