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Aquaculture output in Africa is expected to grow by 48 per cent, contributing to mitigate an expected population-driven reduction in per capita fish consumption on the continent, according to FAO’s the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) report

outdoor 3344529 640The significant dietary values of fish galvanise the importance of aquaculture development, especially in Africa. (Image source: Quang Nguyen vinh/Pixabay)

The report has further emphasised that sustainable aquaculture development and effective fisheries management play a critical role in maintaining global food and nutrition security, with worldwide per capita fish consumption reaching a new record of 20.5kgs per year and poised to increase further in the decade ahead .

According to SOFIA, the total worldwide fish production is set to increase to 204mn tonnes in 2030, up 15 per cent from 2018, with aquaculture's share growing from its current 46 per cent. 

"Fish and fisheries products are recognised not only as some of the healthiest foods on the planet but also as some of the less impactful on the natural environment," FAO director-general QU Dongyu said, emphasising that they must play a more central role in food security and nutrition strategies at all levels.

He further pointed to SOFIA's reporting of growing evidence about effective fisheries management resulting in rebuilding of fish stocks, while failure to implement these measures threaten their contributions to food security and livelihoods.

Around 34.2 per cent of fish stocks are now fished at biologically unsustainable levels, according to SOFIA's benchmark analysis. However, sustainability trends for many major species are improving. 

"The improvement, the fruit of contributions from many stakeholders, attest to the importance of active management to reach and maintain biological sustainability, and serves to underscore how urgently we must replicate such approaches in fisheries and regions where management systems are in poor shape," said Manuel Barange, director of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. "Not surprisingly, we notice that sustainability is particularly difficult in places where hunger, poverty and conflict exist, but there is no alternative to sustainable solutions," he commented.

Aquaculture growth in Africa

According to SOFIA, aquaculture's expansion will continue, although at a slower rate, and farmed fish will contribute to a growing share of consumption and trade over the next decade.

Fish consumption accounts for one-sixth of the global population's intake of animal proteins, and more than half in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and several small island developing States (SIDS).

The significant dietary values of fish galvanise the importance of aquaculture development, especially in Africa, and of harness strategies to help it intensify production sustainably using innovative techniques in the areas of feeds, genetic selection, biosecurity and business developments, FAO's director-general emphasises, noting that FAO's Hand-in-Hand Initiative is "an ideal framework for efforts that combine fisheries and aquaculture trends and challenges in the context of blue growth."

The FAO report has a section on sustainability initiatives to mark the 25th anniversary of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and also notes that FAO and a host of partners are collaborating on the Illuminating Hidden Harvests project, a global study that will be released in late 2020 and aims to support policies in favor of productive, sustainable and equitable small-scale fisheries, which can and do provide essential nutrition to billions and livelihoods and jobs for the vast majority of the 120mn people who depend on fisheries.

While SOFIA is based on information before COVID-19, the baseline information it provides is already helping FAO respond with technical solutions and targeted interventions for fisheries and agriculture, which the Director-General noted is one of the sectors most impacted by the pandemic.