The current global population is at approximately 8 billion now and expected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050. Traditional land-based agriculture consumes more than half of developed land and more than 70 percent of the world’s freshwater resources. The ocean covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface yet produce only 2 percent of the global food supply. Aquaculture is an opportunity to reduce pressure on limited land-based resources by farming fish in the ocean.
This method of food production offers many environmental benefits. Marine aquaculture operations typically produce a smaller carbon footprint. They require less land and fresh water, making them more efficient at converting feed into protein for human consumption. Seafood is also great for your health as it contains nutrients that are linked to a multitude of health benefits.
Shellfish and fish are a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart and brain health. Reliable sources of omega-3s are important, because our bodies are unable to produce them, and they must be obtained through food. As aquaculture continues to expand seafood production, seafood can be included in more people’s diets, improving nutrition and well-being.
Shellfish such as oysters, clams, and mussels serve an important role in waterways. However, in some areas these shellfish have been erased from coastal ecosystems. Restoring and farming shellfish beds allows these bivalves to clean the water as they filter feed. These shellfish also serve as habitats for smaller organisms.
The Current State of Aquaculture
Aquaculture is increasingly recognized as one of the most environmentally sustainable ways to produce food and protein. Leading health experts promote the value of adding seafood to one’s diet, especially for people who are pregnant or nursing and children. It can also improve food security and nutrition by increasing the amount of seafood available for people to eat. If done correctly, aquaculture increases food production, boosts economic growth in coastal and rural areas, and can help keep waterways clean.
Small-scale fisheries make critical contributions to development in the areas of employment, with over 41 million people worldwide. The majority live in developing countries, working in fish production; food security and nutrition, with fish constituting an important source of nutrients for the poor. With most fisheries worldwide considered fully exploited or overexploited, aquaculture will be central to meeting fish demand, which will continue to increase with population growth, rising incomes and increasing urbanization.
Fish harvested from aquaculture around the globe in 2018 amounted to 114.5 million metric tons. This consisted of 49.8 million tons of finfish, 16.1 million tons of shellfish, 6.9 million tons of crustaceans, and 7.3 million tons of other aquatic animals. Almost all fish produced from aquaculture are destined for human consumption. 35 countries produced more farmed than wild-caught fish in 2014. This group of countries has a combined population of 3.3 billion, or 45 percent of the world’s population. Countries in this group include five major producers, namely, China, India, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, and Egypt.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the global seafood market value was estimated to be around US$145 billion in 2020. This figure represents the value of both capture fisheries and aquaculture production and reflects the demand for seafood products worldwide. The exact value of the seafood market can fluctuate due to various factors such as changes in supply, demand, and exchange rates.
Potential for Aquaculture Growth
Aquaculture has many benefits for developing countries, particularly in terms of food security, income, and employment. It creates year-round jobs, supports resilient working waterfronts and coastal communities, and can provide sustainable economic growth. It also drives employment in other areas of industry, such as seafood processing and feed and equipment manufacturing.
There are several Latin American countries with significant potential for aquaculture. These countries have favorable conditions such as large coastlines, abundant freshwater bodies, and favorable climate conditions, which make them ideal for fish farming. Some of the countries with the most potential in Latin America include Brazil, Chile, Peru, Mexico, and Colombia.
These countries have the potential to become major players in the global aquaculture industry, providing food security, income, and employment to their populations. They can also play a role in preserving wild fish stocks, which are under threat due to overfishing and climate change. By developing sustainable practices, these countries can help to ensure the long-term health of their aquatic ecosystems and provide a source of food for future generations.
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