2024 State of World Fisheries report: global catches hit new highs; farmed species leading for first time; small-scale fisheries need protection

United Nations report says small-scale fisheries support 90% of wild capture workforce; need more recognition and protection.

by | June 18, 2024

UN Report features “Blue Transformation in Action

Global fisheries and aquaculture production hit a new high in terms of volume and value, aquaculture/farming surpassed wild capture fisheries for the first time, and small-scale fisheries need more attention and protections by managers.

Those are three takeaways from the 2024 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) report which reflects data from 2022 on fisheries and aquaculture production from around the world.

[Find a great interactive report HERE]

Here’s a snapshot of wild and farmed species production and values:

In 2022, global fisheries and aquaculture production reached a new high of 223.2 million tons. The breakdown includes 185.4 million tons of aquatic animals and 37.8 million tons of algae (seaweeds).

For the first time, aquaculture (fish farming) surpassed capture fisheries in animal production with 94.4 million tons, representing 51% of the world total, and a record 57% of the production destined for human consumption.  

Over 230 countries and territories were involved in the international trade of aquatic products, reaching a record value of $195 billion – a 19% increase from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.  

Of the total aquatic animal production, 89% was used for human consumption, equivalent to over 45.6 pounds per capita in 2022. (US consumption is closer to 16 pounds per person.) The rest went to non-food uses, mostly fish meal and fish oil. 

Nearly 62 million people were employed in the primary production sector, mostly in small-scale operations – 24% of wild harvesters and fish farmers were women. 

 Out of some 730 farmed species items, 17 represent about 60% of global aquaculture production, while other species are important at local levels. 

Wild capture production is stable, but “urgent action” is needed for conservation

Global capture fisheries production remains stable, but sustainability of fishery resources is a cause for concern. Urgent action is needed to accelerate fishery stock conservation and rebuilding, the report said.

 Global capture fisheries have fluctuated between 86 and 94 million tons per year since the late 1980s.

In 2022, the sector produced 92.3 million tons, valued at about $159 billion and comprising 91 million tons of aquatic animals – 79.7 million tons caught in marine areas and 11.3 million tons in inland waters – in addition to 1.3 million tons of seaweeds.

The fraction of marine stocks fished within biologically sustainable levels decreased to 62.3% in 2021, 2.3% lower than in 2019. ƒ When weighted by their production level, an estimated 76.9% of the 2021 landings were from biologically sustainable stocks.  

 Global demand for aquatic foods is projected to increase further and expansion of sustainable production is vital to ensure healthy diets from oceans, lakes and rivers.

Small-scale fisheries need protection to support , sustain communities

The UN report says small-scale fisheries are a vital source of nutrition and livelihoods for millions of people, and greater global recognition and action are needed to support and empower these communities. ƒ 

Small-scale fisheries contribute an estimated 40% of the global catch and support 90% of the wild fisheries workforce. ƒ

Some 500 million people rely on small-scale fisheries for their livelihoods, including 53 million involved in subsistence fishing – 45% of whom are women. ƒ

The Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries were endorsed a decade ago, yet the vital role of small-scale fisheries is not sufficiently recognized. ƒ

Enhancing the recognition and governance of small-scale fisheries through co-management approaches remains crucial to secure sustainable exploitation, equitable socioeconomic development and equal opportunities for all.

[Find a great interactive report HERE]

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About Laine

Laine Welch has covered the Alaska fish beat for print and radio since 1988. She also has worked “behind the counter” at retail and wholesale seafood companies in Kodiak and on Cape Cod.

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