During 2014, the amount of fish harvested from aquaculture totaled 73.8 million metric tons. Aquaculture and water farming represent approximately half of the world’s fish and seafood production. Furthermore, the global worth of the aquaculture industry is estimated at close to US$200 billion. Currently, the global fish supply grows at a rate of approximately 3% yearly and global fish consumption is estimated to be 20kg per capita. Furthermore, these projections keep growing steadily every year. Therefore, nations and private companies worldwide have taken the initiative to intensify fish production in controlled environments in order to increase supply and achieve market equilibrium. It should come to no surprise that nations like China, Japan, the United States, and Indonesia, are amongst the top producers of aquaculture fish and seafood.
Global Aquaculture and Seafood Markets
Mariculture, aquaculture, or fish farming is the cultivation, through controlled nurseries, of both salt and fresh water seafood and fish species. Even though these techniques of controlled fish cultivation have been practiced for centuries, the industry has gained a large amount of traction over the last few decades. Aquaculture has several advantages over traditional fishing because it does not require going into the high seas to catch the products, nor does it contribute to the depletion of fish populations in the exploited areas. Likewise, mariculture or aquaculture can be practiced either in closed-off coastal waters or in artificially made pools.
Given the importance of fish and seafood to the diets of the Asia Pacific region, China has for decades been a pioneer of aquaculture and represents by far its largest producer. Similarly, emerging markets like Africa and Latin America have grown their aquaculture production at paces that exceed 10% annually over the last few years. In this sense, it is evident that aquaculture represents a real asset for developing nations, whose populations benefit substantially from the nutritional value of fish as a staple food. In some of these emerging regions, aquaculture operations are small and highly atomized throughout the countries. Furthermore, the fish production is meant for local and regional markets, not necessarily for global export.
Today, the aquaculture and fish farming industry has grown to the point that it accounts for approximately half of all fish and seafood consumed worldwide. The most important foodstuffs produced through aquaculture include carps, mackerel, milkfish, mollusks, salmon, sea bass, and trout, amongst others. High-end seafood products cultivated through aquaculture include oysters, shrimp, and caviar. Likewise, green algae can be harvested through aquaculture in order to produce oil, personal care products, or even be used as a renewable energy source. As fishing licenses become harder to acquire, maritime regulations increase, the threat of piracy lingers in some regions of the world, and wild fisheries grow evermore depleted, a growing number of suppliers and nations are looking into purchasing food products from aquaculture. In this regard, the Asia Pacific region is one of the main markets for aquaculture products in the world.