World governments must embrace innovation and equity if the global aquaculture sector is to grow sustainably and be an all-inclusive food sector, according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Qu Dongyu.

Dongyu said at the recent Global Conference on Aquaculture Millenium+20 in Shanghai, China, that aquaculture is currently the fastest growing agri-food sector – especially in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean –where there is “huge potential for further expansion.”

“Aquaculture production will continue to grow, but the benefits of this growth must be equitable and fairly distributed,” Dongyu said.

The conference, which is the fourth in the series, was organized by the FAO and China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, together with the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA), and featured addresses by several global seafood industry leaders and government representatives.

The conference’s deliberations included discussion  on traditional family farming in vulnerable communities and on cutting-edge technology – with presentations on innovation, genetic resources, biosecurity, the social and human dimensions on aquaculture, value chains, and market access, according to the FAO.

The agency estimates current global fish consumption has increased by 122 percent over the last 31 years, with aquaculture now accounting for more than 50 percent of global seafood consumption. FAO estimates aquaculture’s share of global fish consumption is likely to increase to 60 percent by 2031.

“However, the impacts of the climate crisis and disruption to production and consumption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have created challenges on the rate of growth and expansion of the sector,” an FAO post-conference release added.

Conference participants were expected to create the Shanghai Declaration, which “will shape the future of aquaculture and seek to optimize the sector’s contribution to global agri-food systems in line with the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

“FAO’s Strategic Framework is based on the principles of the Four Betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all – leaving no one behind,” Dongyu said. 

He said the Shanghai Declaration “is a call for global action.”

Currently, the FAO is implementing a new Strategic Framework 2022-2031 under the agency’s Blue Transformation priority program, supporting the growth of global fish farming by between 35 percent and 40 percent by the end of 2030.

“Aquaculture already plays an important role in ‘leaving no one behind,’ which means all our efforts and actions must focus on everyone everywhere, in order to end hunger and poverty,” Dongyu said.

The Shanghai conference came at a time the FAO is celebrating the performance of the global aquaculture sector, which set another production record of 114.5 million tons in live-weight by 2018, with a total farm-gate sale value of USD 263.6 billion (EUR 226.3 billion).  

Photo courtesy of the Food and Agriculture Organization

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