“Ensuring the expansion of sustainable aquaculture is of fundamental importance for consumers,” - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

UN agency calls for more aquaculture, seafood farming

“Ensuring the expansion of sustainable aquaculture is of fundamental importance for consumers,” – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

By Fabian Dawson

An increasingly expanding global aquaculture sector is driving the supply of fish and fishery products to new records, states the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“Ensuring the expansion of sustainable aquaculture is of fundamental importance for consumers,” said Qu Dongyu, the Director-General of FAO, when opening the 36th Session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI36) this week in Rome.

Qu pointed out that aquatic foods must contribute further to the fight against hunger and malnutrition for a growing population. But, for this to be the case, he said the sector needs to ensure aquaculture continues to grow sustainably, particularly in food deficit regions.

This week’s COFI36 meeting will focus on the vital role of fisheries and aquaculture in tackling food insecurity, malnutrition, and poverty, stressing their ability to alleviate hunger, drive sustainable growth, and reverse environmental degradation.

It is the largest global gathering of policymakers, experts and partners in the fisheries and aquaculture sector.

During the COFI36 session, the main outcomes reached during the previous session of its sub-committees on Aquaculture, Fisheries Management and Trade will be presented.

The Guidelines for Sustainable Aquaculture will also be reviewed for final endorsement, aiming to harness the sector’s potential to sustainably meet the growing global demand for aquatic foods

The UN food agency has said it hopes to see 35% growth in the sector by 2030 as part of the FAO’s “Blue Transformation” road map, which seeks to change the world’s aquatic food systems by the start of the next decade.

The call to boost aquaculture, comes as Canada has been curtailing the sector, especially salmon farming in British Columbia, to appease activists at the expense of thousands of jobs in indigenous and non-indigenous coastal communities in the province.

The Trudeau Liberal government has also ignored its own science that shows these open-net operations pose less than a minimal risk to wild stocks when announcing the marine operations will be phased out in 2029.

Elsewhere around the world, governments are heeding the call of the FAO to boost aquaculture and ocean farming sustainably.

In the UK, the country’s newly minted new business secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, has renewed his government’s commitment to grow salmon exports with the European Union.

The trade body, Salmon Scotland, said Scottish salmon exports have surged to £645 million, reaching their highest level in five years as international demand continues to grow.

“The Labour party supports the Scottish aquaculture sector and has manifesto commitments to use the levers of government to promote Scottish salmon internationally as part of ‘Brand Scotland’,” said Salmon Scotland communications head Andrew Watson.

Over the last fifty years the Scottish salmon farming sector has not only become the fish of choice for British shoppers and the UK’s number one food export, it is also a major provider of jobs with 2,300 people directly employed with a further 10,000 people working in the supply chain.

In Australia, the government there has issued a statement saying: “Australia is on the cusp of an aquaculture boom, with our reputation as a producer of sustainable, reliable and delicious seafood becoming well-known around the globe.”

Australia’s Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt said that across the nation’s aquaculture industry, the country is seeing projected increases of up to 5%, with the total value expected to be $2.21 billion by 2028–29.

“This potential growth could see aquaculture represent 64% of total seafood sector production value…Importantly, that means more jobs will be created in this important industry right across the country,” he said.

In the United States, the government is working on a National Aquaculture Development Plan to boost seafood farming.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that aquaculture is becoming increasingly important as a climate-smart and healthy means of food production.

“In addition to providing a sustainable source of American-raised seafood, aquaculture plays an important role in fisheries restoration. Aquaculture has helped more than 70 endangered or threatened species, including Pacific Salmon, white abalone, and queen conch. In addition, it’s helped restore habitats and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” the NOAA said.

Stronger America Through Seafood (SATS), a group representing the U.S. aquaculture industry said there is now widespread support from academics, environmentalists, seafood experts, and Members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, to grow America’s offshore aquaculture industry.

 “Aquaculture expansion not only addresses food security needs, but also presents an opportunity to create quality jobs and reduce our reliance on seafood imports, strengthening America’s food independence,” said Drue Banta Winters, campaign manager for SATS.

The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) said while farm-raised salmon remains the most popular seafood choice of Canadians, it is increasingly being replaced by salmon flown in from other countries at higher prices and a larger carbon footprint.

(Image shows a Mowi salmon farm off Muck, Scotland. Photo: Mowi.)