Fish and seafood


Overview of fish and seafood

The growth of aquaculture production will be concentrated in Asia. It remains one of the fastest growing food sectors and surpasses capture fisheries for human consumption in 2014.


Market situation

The fish sector has been recently characterised by rather high and volatile prices. With the 2002-04 average price set to 100, the aggregate FAO Fish Price Index climbed steeply to a record high of 164 in December 2013. This growth reflects an inadequate supply that pushes prices upward for selected farmed species, e.g. salmon and shrimps/prawns that are two of the world’s major traded species, but also increases in prices for some wild species such as cod and certain pelagic species. In contrast, fishmeal prices, after having reached historic highs in January 2013, experienced a downward trend (minus 20% during January 2013-January 2014), but still remain on a high plateau.

After a period of instability, that started in the mid-end of 2012 and early 2013, fishery trade bounced back during the rest of 2013 and early 2014. In 2013 the overall exports of fish and fishery products peaked at over USD 136 billion, representing more than 5% increase compared with the previous year. This strengthening was in part a reflection of higher prices, but it was also stimulated by a recovery in high-income economies, which are the main importers of seafood commodities. Overall exports from developing countries increased partly because of this revitalised import demand but also because of flourishing demand for high value species such as salmon, tuna, bivalves and shrimp, by emerging economies.

Led by continued growth in aquaculture output, global fishery production (aquaculture plus capture) reached a new record in 2013, at more than 160 Mt. Per capita apparent fish consumption grew by more than 2%, compared to previous year, reflecting the increased availability of farmed products, which are in the process of overtaking capture fisheries as the main source of fish food supply, but also the growing volumes of wild species going to direct human consumption instead of being reduced into fishmeal/fish oil.


Projection highlights

  • Despite the instability experienced in 2012 and part of 2013, the medium-term trend for the fish sector remains positive. Developing countries will drive major changes and expansion in fisheries and aquaculture production, trade and consumption.
  • The outlook for fish in the next decade reflects the response to sustained high costs in a context of firm demand, in particular in developing countries. By 2023, fish prices in nominal terms are projected to be well above their historical average. In real terms, fish prices are expected to slightly decline, yet remaining above levels in previous decades.
  • World fishery production is expected to be 17% higher by 2023. The growth will be primarily driven by gains in aquaculture output, which is projected to reach 49% of total fishery production in 2023. However, growth in aquaculture production is anticipated to slow down to 2.5% p.a., dampened by higher costs during the outlook period, which compares to 5.6% p.a. for the previous decade.
  • Fish and fishery products will continue to be highly traded, but overall trade is projected to increase at a slightly slower pace than in the past due to higher transportation cost, slower output growth and weaker demand in selected importing countries.
  • World per capita apparent fish food consumption is projected to reach 20.9 kg per capita in 2023, up from 19.2 kg per capita in 2011-13. Relative to the previous decade, fish consumption growth in the outlook period will decelerate due to high fish prices and slower population growth.


Figure. World prices in real terms expected to remain high
Nominal (left) vs real (right) fish prices

Note: Fish food traded: world unit value of trade (sum of exports and imports). Aquaculture: FAO world unit value of aquaculture fisheries production (live weight basis). Capture: FAO estimated value of world ex-vessel value of capture fisheries production excluding for reduction. Fishmeal: 64-65% protein, Hamburg, Germany. Fish oil: any origin, N.W. Europe.
Source: OECD and FAO Secretariats.


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