ROME–Aquaculture has seen enormous progress in recent decades and is destined to produce the majority of the ever-growing demand for aquatic food.
The sector now needs an updated set of governing principles to 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 recently by leading experts in the field, arising from the latest Global Conference on Aquaculture Millennium +20 held in Shanghai and organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and partners as part of a decadal series of such conferences.
“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,” said Xinhua Yuan, FAO’s Deputy Director for Aquaculture. “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 publication of the eight thematic review articles as a special issue of the Journal of the World Aquaculture Society coincides with the holding of 12th session of the Sub-Committee on Aquaculture of FAO’s Committee on Fisheries, the inter-governmental forum that guides the FAO in formulating aquaculture and fisheries policy advice.
One of the major items on the agenda for the sub-committee that took place on May 16 to 19 in Hermosillo, Mexico, is the consideration of new Draft Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Aquaculture (GSA). The publication of these thematic reviews provides useful context for these discussions and more broadly to FAO’s vision for a Blue Transformation.
The objective is to achieve the further intensification and expansion of aquaculture sustainably, in a way that satisfies global demand for aquatic food and distributes benefits equitably, with care regarding social responsibility, pollution and other considerations, said Xinhua.
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. Moreover, aquaculture practices on average produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than other forms of animal production.
Aquaculture is mostly practiced in Asia and needs to be distributed more evenly, with immediate efforts to stimulate its development in Africa, Latin America and Small Island Developing States.
Great progress has been achieved in improving feed efficiency and reducing the use of marine sourced ingredients but more innovation will be needed, especially for many of the species being farmed in the developing world.
In contrast to terrestrial agriculture, selective breeding programs to develop more efficient farmed types of aquatic species are heavily underutilized, currently accounting for only around 15 percent of production. FAO News