“Nearly half the fish consumed as food worldwide are raised on fish farms rather than caught in the wild,” according to a new FAO report. The State of World Aquaculture 2006 report, presented at a meeting of the the FAO Sub-Committee on Aquaculture held in New Delhi earlier this month, stated that fish consumed by human beings originating from aquaculture, just 9% in 1980, today constitutes 43%.

The hard numbers are 45.5 million tonnes of farmed fish, worth US$63 billion, eaten per year, versus 95 million tonnes from capture fisheries, of which 60 million tonnes goes to human consumption.

Those are bigger numbers than I would have thought.

Other interesting highlights:

Global consumer demand for fish continues to climb, particularly in affluent, developed countries which in 2004 imported 33 million tonnes of fish worth over US$61 billion.

The global capture of wild fish has remained roughly stable since the mid-1980s, hovering around 90-93 million tonnes.

Note, however, that this figure overlooks (disguises?) the fact that in many fisheries, collapse of the main targeted species has led to “fishing down the food chain”, shifting effort to marginal species once despised as “trash”. Any implication that global wild capture fisheries have been essentially stable and unchanged for the last 25 years, which might seem to be implied by the previous statement, is very, very wrong.

The FAO said that of 600 wild capture species monitored, 52% are fully exploited and 25% are over-exploited (17%), depleted (7%), or recovering from depletion (1%) while only 3% listed as under-exploited.