Proceedings of the Third World Fisheries Congress: Feeding the World with Fish in the Next Millenium—The Balance between Production and Environment

An Overview of the Status of Global Aquaculture, Excluding China

Michael B. New


According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), China produced nearly 20.8 million mt of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks in 1998 (FAO 2000b), and production reportedly increased to nearly 24 million mt in 1999 (Anonymous 2000a); less than half as much was produced in the rest of the world (10.1 million mt in 1998). In addition, China produced 6.3 million mt of aquatic plants (seaweeds) in 1998 (FAO 2000b); only 2.2 million mt were produced in the rest of the world. However, these facts do not imply that aquaculture is unimportant or insignificant outside of China. The value of fish, crustacean, and molluscan aquaculture products cultured outside of China were valued at US$25.4 billion in 1998, and cultured aquatic plants were valued at another US$1.6 billion. In many countries, aquaculture is an extremely important industry that provides food, employment, and income.

A parallel keynote paper was presented at the Third World Fisheries Congress by my friend, Li Sifa, on the status of aquaculture in China (“Fish-farming: past, present, and future in China,” this volume). For that reason, my paper excludes any details about that country.

Many previous review papers have discussed global aquaculture production trends using data in which the statistics of Chinese production were agglomerated within Asia and globally (e.g., Pillay 1979; New 1991, 1997; Csavas 1995; New et al. 1995; Anonymous 2000f). One exception is a report by FAO (1997a), but projections were only up to 2000. The inclusion of Chinese production figures skews regional and global trends, so a preliminary attempt was made to emphasize the effect of disaggregation of these data (New 1999a). In this paper, I have further developed the concept to better indicate aquaculture trends in the world outside of China and to project future data to 2010.

Figure 1 illustrates the overall global trend in aquaculture and fisheries production for the decade 1989–1998. Globally, the farmed production of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks increased by 150% between 1989 and 1998, whereas capture fisheries production decreased by 3%. However, Chinese production skews the global total. Without the Chinese statistics, the data indicate that capture fisheries production in the rest of the world decreased more substantially (–17% between 1989 and 1998). Similarly, aquaculture production has not increased by so much (60%). The amalgamation of capture and aquaculture production figures shows that the total grew from 102 million mt in 1989 to 117 million mt in 1998, a total expansion rate of 15.3% over the decade. However, when Chinese statistics are removed, the data indicate that the total in the rest of the world actually decreased from 89 million mt to 79 million mt (–11.5%). These examples amply demonstrate the dangers of making generalizations at the global (or Asian) level.