Aquaculture is vital for feeding the world's expanding population states the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Aquaculture key to meet food demand, says UN

Aquaculture is vital for feeding the world’s expanding population states the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

By Fabian Dawson

As Canada dithers over the future of its aquaculture industry, the United Nations is calling on countries to promote seafood farming to end hunger and poverty globally.

“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,” said Qu Dongyu, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Speaking at the Global Conference on Aquaculture Millennium+20 in Shanghai last week, the Director-General highlighted aquaculture as the fastest growing agri-food sector globally saying there is huge potential for further expansion in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Aquaculture production will continue to grow, but the benefits of this growth must be equitable and fairly distributed,” Qu said, while noting the need to further develop “the human, social, cultural and economic dimensions of aquaculture.”

The sector needs to adopt an “holistic” approach with a focus on people and communities, specifically on the women, youth, elderly and indigenous communities who rely on aquaculture for their livelihoods, he said.

Global consumption of fish has increased by 122 percent since 1990 and aquaculture now accounts for more than 50 percent of current fish consumption. That figure is expected to rise above 60 percent during the next decade, said the FAO.

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.

The Shanghai Declaration, which is expected to be adopted at the conference, is a call to action that will shape the future of aquaculture and seek to optimize the sector’s contribution to global agri-food systems in line with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Qu stressed aquaculture plays an important role in FAO’s new Strategic Framework 2022-2031 through its Blue Transformation priority programme, with the objective of supporting 35 to 40 percent growth in global aquaculture by 2030.

Countries around the world from America to Australia, Ireland to India and China all have plans to boost their aquaculture output.

But the industry In Canada, which generates $5.2 billion in economic activity employing 21,300 full time workers, is under attack by activists who want to replace salmon farming in their natural ocean environment with land-based tanks.

On Canada’s west coast, The Liberal Government bowing to demands from the anti-salmon farming lobby group, said it will remove salmon farmers from British Columbia’s Discovery Islands by July 2022.

The government has rebuffed its own scientists, who found that the Discovery Island farms posed less than a minimal threat to wild stocks, to secure votes from the activist groups whose following are mainly in urban Liberal strongholds.

The Discovery Islands’ decision will see British Columbia losing almost $390 million in annual economic output with $87 million less in annual salaries and benefits, and 1,535 fewer jobs, mainly in coastal communities of BC.

The fish farmers have applied for a judicial review of the decision by former Fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan, who lost her seat in the recent federal election primarily because of her inept handling of the fisheries and aquaculture files on Canada’s coasts.

B.C. Salmon farmers are asking the government to revisit the Discovery Islands decision and work with all stakeholders to find a better way forward.

(Image courtesy of UN archives shows FAO Director-General QU Dongyu)