of evidence—appear to provide a reasonably accurate description of the overall picture.

Global Overview

Fishing is an important source of food, recreation, community development, wealth, and cultural values in many countries. Although thousands of freshwater and marine fish and shellfish species are used globally, a relatively small number of these species provide the major fraction of the global marine catch. The 10 marine species that provided the greatest catch in 1993 accounted for 35 percent of the commercial marine catch (Figure 2-1, FAO 1996b) and the top 20 species accounted for 46 percent of the global marine catch. Marine fish production is shown in Figure 2-2 and total fish production in Figure 2-3. In addition to the animals mentioned, marine algae (seaweeds) are extensively harvested in many parts of the globe (Abbott and Norris 1985, Akatsuka 1990, Akatsuka 1994, Santelices 1989, Tseng 1984).

Recent estimates indicate that the global first-sale revenues from fishery products are approximately $U.S. 95 billion annually and that fishery products account for about 20 percent of the animal protein consumed by humans (FAO 1995b). Fisheries provide direct and indirect employment to about 200 million people worldwide (Garcia and Newton 1997). Fisheries are especially important in developing countries, which increased their proportion of global catch from about 40 to 65 percent from 1973 to 1993. The net value of fishery products exported from developing countries totaled $16 billion in 1994 (FAO 1997a), greater than the exports of coffee, bananas, rubber, tea, rice, and many other commodities that developing countries have traditionally relied on for foreign exchange (FAO 1997b).

Global marine fish production increased at an average rate of about 3.6 percent per year from 1950 to 1995, from about 18 million to about 91 million metric tons,2 including mariculture production (Figure 2-2, FAO 1997a). In the same period, the world's population increased from 2.5 billion to 5.7 billion people (U.S. Census Bureau 1998), an average annual increase of 1.8 percent. In 1995 total fish production (both freshwater and marine, both through culture and through fishing) was approximately 112 million t (Figure 2-3), of which marine landings accounted for approximately 84 million t. In 1996 the total production reached approximately 116 million t; the increase was due mainly to an increase in freshwater aquaculture production, mainly in China (FAO 1997c). The supply of fish and fish products for human consumption (including freshwater fish and aquaculture products) reached roughly 14 kg per person annually in 1995 (FAO 1997a). By 1995, mariculture accounted for 6.7 million t, 7.4 percent of the total global marine fish yield; freshwater aquaculture provided 14.6 million t (FAO


One metric ton, or tonne (t), is 1,000 kg and equals approximately 2,205 pounds.

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