October 6, 2003



Developing Nations are Set to Dominate World Fishing


Developing countries, particularly in Asia, are set to dominate world fishing as global consumer demand increases, according to a study published on Thursday, 2nd Oct.


Fish-farming or "aquaculture" would grow in response, but extra consumer demand could trigger problems such as trade wars between southern countries, increased environmental damage and over-fishing of already threatened species, said the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).


Investment in new technology, better food safety regulation and eco-labelling would all be needed to ensure a sustainable global industry beyond 2020, the IFPRI warned.


"As aquaculture expands, especially in developing countries, environmental concerns such as effluent pollution, escaped farmed fish, land conversion and pressure on stocks from fish meal demand will only increase with time unless technologies and policies promote sustainable intensification," it said.


Although fish consumption was largely static in developed countries, economic growth and urbanisation in developing nations would drive increases in consumption, it said.


Global consumption of fish has doubled since 1973, with the developing world responsible for 90 per cent of this growth. Developing countries now account for 70 per cent of all fish production.


In China, fish consumption has grown 10 per cent a year since 1985 and by 1997 China accounted for 36 per cent of global consumption.


The country had also become the world's biggest fish producer, with 36 per cent of total world production, although there were concerns official figures were over- estimates because of incentives rewarding local officials, said the IFPRI.


Pressure on wild fish stocks was likely to increase, despite many already being threatened with collapse. "Of all environmental impacts caused by the fish sector, over-fishing poses by far the greatest threat," the report said.


An expansion of fish- farming is the most likely way of satisfying increased consumer demand, but this too poses problems that must be addressed.


These include pollution from chemical inputs and escaped farmed-fish threatening wild species by competing for food or changing the gene pools of wild varieties.


Concern over escaped species would mount if genetically modified fish were farmed, the IFPRI said.


Forecasts for fish prices varied. A "baseline" scenario, based on the most likely assumptions about population, income growth and policy decisions, would see fish prices rise by up to 18 per cent by 2020.


However, an "ecological collapse" scenario - based on a 1 per cent annual decline in wild fish stocks - would see prices rise by up to 134 per cent.