Fish as food: aquaculture's contribution
Monday, March 02, 2009
According to history, oceans were considered limitless and thought to have harboured enough fish to feed the ever-increasing human population.
However, the demand of the world's growing population for fish, particularly in poorer countries is on the increase. At the same time, fishing has become more industrialised, and wild fish stocks increasingly depleted, aquaculture production, fish and shellfish farming are all rapidly growing to address the shortfalls in capture fish. But aquaculture has come under intense scrutiny and criticism, as environmentalists fear that it could cause significant environmental malfunctions and can further impact on wild species that are already threatened.
Indeed, both capture fisheries and aquaculture must have environmental costs, just as all human activities of significant scale does. But it is necessary to fairly evaluate and compare the ecological and economic impact of both. In fact, thorough analysis has indicated that the ecological threat of aquaculture is much lower than continuing to supply the majority of fish protein from wild capture.
Meanwhile, fish is a vital source of food for people. It is one of man's most important source of high-quality protein, providing 16% of the animal protein consumed by the world's population, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nation report of 1997. It is a particularly important protein source in regions where livestock is relatively scarce. Fish is said to supply about 10% of animal protein consumed in North America and Europe, but in Africa, it is said to be at 17% and 26% in Asia while the percentage at China is peaked at 22%, the FAO, 2000 report further reveals. The report further estimated that about one billion people world-wide rely on fish as their primary source of animal protein.
In The Gambia, Fishing has substantial social and economic importance. It has been a source of direct employment for many people and about 35% of the people derive direct and indirect income from fish. Consumption of food from fish is increasing, having risen from 40 million tones in 1970 to 86 million in 1998, the FAO 2000 report added.
However, the report also indicated an anticipated increase to 110 million tones by 2010. Increases in per capital consumption of fish account for only a small portion; it is the growing human population in many countries in Asia, Africa and South America that is primarily responsible for this steadily growing demand for food fish. Today, fish remains the only important food source that is still primarily gathered from the wild rather than farmed fish supply.
Author: By Amadou Jallow