FAO prioritises efforts to strengthen aquaculture for food and sustainable development

AQUACULTURE has seen enormous growth in recent decades and is currently destined to produce the majority of the ever-growing demand for aquatic food.

Some 126 million tonnes of live weight aquaculture production, including aquatic animals and algae, was produced in 2021, about half of it consisting of farmed fin fish. The estimated farm gate value of the output was $296.5 billion.

The FAO says that the sector now needs an updated set of governing principles that ensure that it expands and intensifies, embracing modern technologies, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible, economically viable, and able to meet the needs of present and future generations.

This need is outlined in a set of articles published this week by leading experts in the field.

Xinhua Yuan, FAO’s Deputy Director for Aquaculture, said “Given that aquaculture now supplies around 50 percent of aquatic food, and given its potential to contribute to so many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we all need to focus on how to move it forward in a sustainable way.

“Fish and other aquatic products can and will play a major role in meeting the dietary demands of all people, helping improve the resilience of global food system, while also meeting the food security needs of the poorest,” he added.

The FAO wants to see the further intensification and expansion of aquaculture, in a way that satisfies global demand for aquatic food and distributes benefits equitably, with care regarding social responsibility, pollution and other considerations. Their vision for a Blue Transformation is set out here.

They say that innovative technologies that can increase productivity and reduce waste, as well as enhance inclusion of small-scale operators in the sector, are widely available but need to be applied, particularly outside of Asia, and targeted in areas where aquaculture production has the greatest potential for growth.

The eight articles discuss critical themes for aquaculture, including production methods, social issues and planetary health, nutrition, genetic resources, biosecurity, governance, and inclusive market access.

FAO says that the future growth of aquaculture should be climate smart even as we seek to use the ocean more effectively, efficiently and intelligently to supply food. Emphasising that integrated growth in low trophic level culture species (such as seaweeds and filter feeding bivalve molluscs and fin fish) will be important in this regard.

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