High hopes for fishing hitting sustainable levels as rise in aquaculture decreases over-exploitation of wild stocks.
Humans have never eaten so much fish and other seafood, but nearly half of it is no longer caught wild but is grown in farms, says the United Nations.
New figures from the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) suggest while around 80m tonnes of fish were caught "wild" in 2011-12, global aquaculture production set another all-time high at more than 90 million tonnes, including nearly 24 million tonnes of edible plants like seaweeds.
In total, the world harvested an extra 10m tonnes of aquatic food in 2012 compared to the previous year, says the report.
"Fish farming holds tremendous promise in responding to surging demand for food which is taking place due to global population growth," the report says.
But the UN was upbeat on global fish stocks, identifying a marginal decrease from 30% to 28.8% in the over-exploitation of the stocks which it assessed.
"71.2% of the fish stocks are being fished within biologically sustainable levels. Of these, fully-fished stocks – meaning those at or very close to their maximum sustainable production – account for over 60% and underfished stocks about 10%", said a spokesman. "This is a reversal in [the] trend observed during the past few years, a positive sign in the right direction."
But the authors warned that the burgeoning fish farming industry needs to become far less dependent on wild fish for feed and should rear many different species to avoid wastage. Small-sized species, they say, "can be an excellent source of essential minerals when consumed whole. However, consumer preferences have seen a switch towards larger farmed species whose bones and heads are often discarded."
Written By: John Vidal
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