A report released in mid-November by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, forecasts continued growth in aquaculture. Farmed fish will have a vital role in providing nutrition to people in developing countries but increased investment in productivity-enhancing technologies — water use, breeding, hatchery practices, processing, and feedstuff innovation — is necessary.
Growth in the industry is expected to occur primarily in Africa and in Asia, where it’s projected to grow by more than 4% through 2022.
“The primary reason for increased optimism is that there is ample room for catching up with more productive technologies, especially in Asia, where many fish farmers are small and unable to foot the hefty capital outlays the industry requires to expand output without running into resource constraints,” Audun Lem, a senior official at FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy and Economics Division and one of the lead authors of the report, is cited as explaining.
Of particular importance, states the report, is the added nutrient value additional fish stocks will bring to areas of the world experiencing malnutrition. Currently, the report notes, an estimated 800,000 children die each year from zinc deficiency; 250 million children worldwide are at risk of vitamin A deficiency; and almost a third of the world’s population is iron deficient.
“Fish is not just food,” Jogger Toppe, a FAO officer and expert on fish and nutrition, is reported saying. He cites the mola, a pond fish in Bangladesh that has high levels of zinc, iron and Vitamin A and 80 times the calcium content of tilapia. The African lake sardine has a similar micronutrient profile. These small “trash fish” as they’re known, are eaten whole and have a vital role to play in aquaculture and nutrition. They shouldn’t be replaced by higher-status fish filets.
“The highest iron, zinc and calcium content of fish lies in their heads, bones and guts, which is often the part that gets thrown away.”