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Experts Debate Limits in the Growth of Fish Farming

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Fish Info page, and our Agriculture and Climate page.

Aquaculture is overtaking traditional fishing in global production, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported Monday. But a scientist with the organization predicted that growth would slow as space for the food farms dwindled and concerns grew about their effects on the environment.

Fish farming is the fastest growing area of animal food production, having increased at a 6.6 percent annual rate from 1970 to 2008, the agency said in the report. Over that period, the global per-capita supply of farm-raised fish soared to 17.2 pounds from 1.5 pounds.

In volume, aquaculture now makes up 46 percent of the world's supply of consumed fish, and the sector appears to have overtaken wild fisheries in commercial value, reaching $98.4 billion in 2008, compared with $93.9 billion for fish caught in the wild.

"In terms of capture fisheries, we've now more or less peaked" at a current harvest of 90 million tons for fish caught in the wild, Kevern L. Cochrane, director of the Food and Agriculture Organization's resources use and conservation division, said in a telephone interview.

But fish farms will also run into limits, he warned. "We're going to run into constraints in terms of space availability, water availability - particularly fresh water - and also environmental impacts and supply of feed," Mr. Cochrane said.

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