The necessity of Culturing Fish


Aquacultural output, growing at 11 percent a year over the past decade, is the fastest growing sector of the world food economy. Climbing from 13 million tons of fish produced in 1990 to 31 million tons in 1998, fish farming is poised to overtake cattle ranching as a food source very soon.

Over the last century, the world relied heavily on two natural systems (oceanic fisheries and rangelands) to satisfy a growing demand for animal protein, but that era is ending as both systems are reaching their productive limits.

At this point, the efficiency with which cattle and fish convert grain into protein begins to reshape production trends and thus our diets. Cattle require some 7 kilograms of grain to add 1 kilogram of live weight, whereas fish can add a kilogram of live weight with less than 2 kilograms of grain. Water scarcity is also a matter of concern since it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce 1 ton of grain. But the fish farming advantage in the efficiency of grain conversion translates into a comparable advantage in water efficiency as well, even when the relatively small amount of water for fish ponds is included. In a world of land and water scarcity, the advantage of fish ponds over feedlots in producing low-cost animal protein is clear.

In contrast to meat production, which is concentrated in industrial countries, some 85 percent of fish farming is in developing countries. China, where fish farming began more than 3,000 years ago, accounted for 21 million tons of the 31 million tons of world aquacultural output in 1998. India is a distant second with 2 million tons. Other developing countries with thriving aquacultural sectors include Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Thailand.

In the graph taken from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations it is obvious that a very significant part of total fish comsuption is provided through farming. With marine ecology in its present condition this share with probably grow.


The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) is the flagship publication of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. This premier advocacy document is published every two years to provide policy-makers, civil society and those whose livelihoods depend on the sector a comprehensive, objective and global view of capture fisheries and aquaculture, including associated policy issues.

It is available here:


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