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Fish farming grows rapidly, questions on labor, environmental impact

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 18 Feb 2014 18:20 GMT
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A crane raises a net with fish from a round cage at a fish farm of Selonda company near Sofiko village, about 100 km southwest of Athens, Picture November 21, 2013. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis
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WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nearly two thirds of seafood eaten in 2030 will be raised on fish farms, an industry that is expanding rapidly to meet growing demand especially from Asia, even as human rights groups raise concerns over its environmental impact and labor violations.  

A new report from the World Bank forecasts that aquaculture will grow 75 percent to produce 93 million tonnes of fish by 2030, when it will account for about half the global fish supply. The amount of fish caught in the wild will grow only slightly from present levels.

In some parts of the world, fish farms have expanded at the expense of the environment. Shrimp fisheries have destroyed mangrove swamps that provide critical coastal buffers filtering water pollutants and preventing inland flooding.  Poor practices have contributed to disease outbreaks among shrimp fisheries in East Asia and salmon farming in Chile. Human rights groups have reported child labor in fish factories and forced labor on boats under appalling conditions.  

But Juergen Voegele, director of agriculture and environmental services at the World Bank, said that aquaculture, practised responsibly, can improve food security and provide jobs that are needed as the global population inches toward nine billion.

“We continue to see excessive and irresponsible harvesting in capture fisheries, and in aquaculture disease outbreaks among other things have heavily impacted production,” Voegele said. “There is a major opportunity for developing countries that are prepared to invest in better fisheries management and environmentally sustainable aquaculture,” he added.

Vietnam and Ghana already have programmes in place to improve their fish farm practices and develop sustainable aquaculture, the World Bank said.

The biggest growth in demand for fish is coming from China, India and Southeast Asia, the report said. Chinese buying alone is expected to rise 62 percent by 2030 to 57 million tonnes or roughly one third of all fish consumed.  Its production also is forecast to increase sufficiently to match its consumption, the report said.

The fishing industry has grown considerably over the past 30 years.  The amount of fish caught in the wild has risen one third to 93 million tonnes.  Aquaculture production has exploded to 63 million tonnes from 5 million and is expected to grow by 2030 to 93 million tonnes, according to the report “Fish to 2030: Prospects for Fisheries and Aquaculture”. 

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