# How does fishing help in earning foreign exchange?

Fishing activities, and not the occasional collection of shellfish and other aquatic resources from the coast – which is an even earlier activity – are probably older than agriculture and livestock. Despite this, thousands of years later, fishing continues to play a fundamental social and economic role. The contribution of the fisheries sector is essential for the food security of countries and communities. The sector, through self-employment or contract work, helps to reduce poverty and inequalities between rural and urban areas, in addition to generating income, through trade, both nationally and internationally.

 How does fishing help in earning foreign exchange?

The conservation of aquatic resources exploited by man is therefore essential to ensure the long-term sustainability of fisheries. No less important is the conservation of ecosystems and the marine environment, an effort that is fully compatible with the continuation of fishing for human consumption and maintenance of employment levels. In recent years, aquaculture has been developing very quickly, in response to the growing demand for fish and fish products, reaching a level of development far beyond what could have been imagined long ago, when fish farming began to develop. The importance of aquaculture is also due to the fact that it is still a growing production activity, when it is known that the exploitation of wild populations, in general, has already reached its maximum potential.

Underlying these circumstances is the requirement that the world’s fisheries and aquaculture be managed responsibly (which implies avoiding overfishing and the need for coordination and implementation of effective research and extension activities, in addition to the training of personnel), the in order to guarantee its sustainable development in the long term. To this end, it is necessary not only to look at the fisheries and aquaculture sector itself, but also to take into account other issues related to these activities, some of which may cut across economic, social, environmental and governance dimensions (for example, subsidies ).

It is important to mention a few facts and provide up-to-date information. The total production of fish in the world (capture and aquaculture), excluding aquatic plants, showed new growth in the period 2006-2008, rising from 137 million tons, in 2006, to 140 million tons, in 2007. Preliminary data indicate a further increase in 2008, to 143 million tons, and also in 2009. China confirms its role as the main producer, with 48 million tons in 2008, of which 33 million derive from aquaculture (1). Special attention should be paid to the fact that, in general, 80% of the world production of fish and fishery products takes place in developing countries.

Compared to production values ​​a decade ago, current supply represents an increase of more than 20 million tonnes. This additional source is entirely due to increased aquaculture production. Preliminary data for 2008 indicate 53 million tons (excluding aquatic plants) or 37% of total production. Estimates for 2009 show only a slight increase in production per crop, to 54 million tonnes, probably as a result of falling demand in 2008. However, it is a matter of great concern, not only in terms of food security in the future, but also from a technological and managerial point of view. Of course, in many countries,

Fish production per capture has stabilized at around 90 million tons per year, with some variations. Preliminary statistics for 2008 and estimates for 2009 confirm global catch fisheries supplies of around 90 million tonnes. This is in line with the pattern observed over the last 15 years, during which the total annual catch has fluctuated in a range of 85 to 95 million tonnes. However, there is some concern that while annual catches may have stabilized, the composition of the catch has changed, as fishers are now also targeting low-value species that were not previously caught.

If we turn our attention to the issue of fish consumption, it is important to note that the world per capita consumption of fish and fish products has been growing gradually in recent decades, from an average of 11.5 kg during the 1970s, to 12.5 kg in 1980 and 14.4 kg in 1990. Consumption in the 21st century continued to grow, reaching 16.4 kg per capita in 2005, the most recent year of FAO balance sheets. Preliminary data for 2007 and 2008 show a further increase to 17.1 kg per capita. Estimates for 2009 show a stable picture of per capita consumption, with aquaculture’s contribution to the fish food supply estimated at 47% of the total.

A large part of the increase in fish production in the world is due to China, where national consumption of fish and fish products per capita has grown from less than 5 kg in 1970 to 25.8 kg today. Worldwide, excluding China’s domestic consumption, average per capita consumption was 13.5 kg in 1970, rising to 14.1 kg in 1980, and then falling to 13.4 kg in 1990. The average for the period 2001-2005 represented a further increase to 14.0 kg per capita, which is still below the maximum levels recorded in 1980. Essentially, most of the increase in total fish production in the world has not only in China, as it has also been consumed in China. For the rest of the world, per capita consumption is remarkably stable, hovering around 14 kg. It should also be mentioned that, as a whole, developed countries consume much more fish than developing countries, with an average of 24.0 kg per capita in the first group, 14.4 kg in the second, including China, and 10.6 kg, excluding China. However, today average consumption in the developed world is lower than in the 1980s, while consumption in developing countries has increased, both in absolute and relative numbers.

There are large differences in per capita consumption of fish between regions, but also within them. As mentioned earlier, China’s consumption increased to 25.8 kg per capita in 2005. Asia without China currently consumes 13.9 kg per capita (positive trend in 1990, but currently declining), Europe 20.7 kg (rising), North and Central America, 18.9 (rising). The regions of South America, 8.4 (decline), and Africa, 8.3 kg (positive but unstable trend), have per capita consumption below average. Strong projected population growth is likely to result in further declines in per capita consumption in South America and Africa. Significant growth potential in aquaculture production can, however, help to offset this situation.

In general, urbanization and the growth of modern food distribution channels increase the potential availability of fish for most of the world’s consumers. In some markets, this really boosted their consumption, in others it didn’t. It is also evident that economic and cultural factors strongly influence the level of fish consumption, and that availability alone is not the only determinant of consumption.

Regarding the international trade in fish and fish products, it should be noted that there was strong growth in 2006 and 2007, and during most of 2008. The economic crisis, however, led to a drop in consumption in most countries, with records of falling imports in almost all markets in 2009. The proportion of world fish production traded internationally (in live weight) was estimated at 37% in 2009. Despite the contraction of consumer spending in the period 2008 and 2009 , the long-term trend for the fish trade remains positive, with an increasing share of production from developed and developing countries entering international markets. The outlook for 2010 remains positive, with expectations of new growth in exports,

World exports of fish and fishery products grew 8.6% in 2007 to US$94 billion and 8.7% in 2008 to over US$102 billion. Estimates for 2009, however, point to a fall in values ​​and volumes. The weakening of the US currency, however, influenced commercial decisions, and it is even possible that the values ​​traded, even showing a decreasing trend in national currency, may show an upward trend when converted into dollars. Developing countries confirm their fundamental importance as suppliers to world markets, with around 50% of the value and 60% of the quantity (in live weight) of all fish exports. Imports are carried out mainly by developed countries, currently accounting for about 80% of its total value of US$108 billion (2) (2008). This was the first time that imports exceeded US$ 100 billion. In terms of volume (in live weight), imports from developed countries represent a significantly lower percentage, around 60%, reflecting the higher unit value of products imported by these countries.

Net income from fish exports earned by developing countries reached approximately US$27 billion in 2008. For many developing countries, the fish trade represents an important source of foreign exchange, in addition to playing an important role in income generation. , employment and food security. For Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDC), net export earnings rose to US$12 billion in 2008. PBRDAs accounted for 20 % of total exports in value, a slight decrease compared to the previous period.

In general, the long-term increase in aggregate trade values ​​and volumes for all commodities (except fishmeal volumes) reflects the increasing globalization of the fisheries value chain. Production and processing is outsourced to Asia (China, Thailand and Vietnam) and, to a lesser extent, to Central and Eastern Europe (eg Poland and the Baltics), North Africa (Morocco) and Central America. Outsourcing of processing takes place both regionally and globally, depending on the form of the product, labor costs and transport time. In general, labor cost differences weigh much more than transportation issues. Many species, such as salmon, tuna, catfish ( catfish), Nile perch and tilapia are increasingly traded in processed form (fillets or loins). At the same time, the growth of international or global distribution channels through large retailers has contributed to this development.

The increase in the share of developing countries in total fish production can also be considered a form of outsourcing production and supply, at least for the part destined to enter international markets. During the period 1997-2007, the share of developed countries in total production fell from 29% in 1997 to 20% in 2007. The increase in the share of developing countries also reflects the significant growth of aquaculture, which, through of economies of scale and improved technology, reduced costs and prices, and thus expanded the global market. However, the fact that aquaculture, whether in developed or developing countries, faces increasing restrictions in terms of space and water availability cannot be overlooked.

China is by far the largest exporter of fish, with figures of US$10.2 billion (2008), but its imports are also growing, reaching US$5.2 billion (2008). The increase in imports from China is partly a result of outsourcing, as Chinese processors import raw materials from all major regions, including North and South America and Europe, for reprocessing and export. This also reflects increasing Chinese domestic consumption of species not available from local sources.

The European Union is the biggest market for imported fish products. This reflects its growing domestic consumption, but also its expansion to 27 member countries. 2008 (EU-27) imports reached US$45.2 billion, an increase of 7.8% since 2007, and represent 42% of total world imports. However, these statistics also include trade between EU partners. Excluding intra-regional trade, the EU imported US$24.6 billion worth of fish and fish products from supplier countries outside the bloc. Even so, the EU is still the biggest market in the world, with around 23% of world imports.

The United States is the largest single import market and depends on imports to supply approximately 60% of its fish consumption. With a growing population and a positive long-term trend in seafood consumption, US imports reached $13.6 billion in 2007 and$15 billion in 2008.

Japan, traditionally the largest single fish import market, was overtaken by the United States in 2007. The long-term trend for Japanese fish consumption is negative and meat consumption surpassed fish consumption for the first time in 2006. Imports from Japan in 2009 (9 months) fell again to 1.8 million tons (product weight), with a significant reduction of 25% in dollars.

In addition to the three main import markets, a number of other markets have become increasingly important to the world’s exporters. Among these emerging markets are the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Egypt and the Middle East in general. The number of individual markets of some relevance, that is, markets with a total value of imports of at least US\$ 50 million, is close to 85 countries. This proves not only the global nature of the fish trade, but also how diverse this trade has become. In Asia, Africa and South and Central America regional trade is important, although in many cases it is not adequately reflected in official statistics. The improvement of the internal distribution systems of fish and fishery products contributes to the increase of regional trade, as well as the growing production of aquaculture. It should also be noted that domestic markets, particularly in Asia but also in Brazil, demonstrated resilience during the 2008-2009 period and therefore offered welcome stability to national and regional producers.

Due to the variety of legal regimes applicable to aquatic spaces and their living resources, the governance of fisheries and aquaculture must be addressed not only at the national or local level, but also at the international level, which makes it much more complex than the management of other types of resources. The number and nature of active investors is also greater and more varied. There has also been an inevitable transformation in the way fisheries resources are managed over the years. Several decades ago, the efforts of public administrations were focused on the development of fisheries and aquaculture, and on ensuring the growth of production and consumption. Later, in the 1980s, as many resources became fully exploited or depleted, public policy makers’ attention shifted to fisheries management in addition to aquaculture development. The subsequent recognition of the many failures in management led governments and other relevant investors today to broaden the approach, and governance – which is the sum of the legal, social, economic and political arrangements used to sustainably manage fisheries and aquaculture. – came to be seen as an essential context for management, becoming one of its main concerns.

It is possible to identify and list some of the current key issues in fisheries governance:

The implementation of international fisheries instruments (3) concluded since the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in particular the application of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its International Action Plans.

The strengthening of international cooperation through the strengthening of regional fisheries management organizations (OROPs) to better conserve and manage fish stocks, which is still the major challenge faced by international fisheries governance.

The fish trade and the prominence of international trade-related issues such as labelling, catch certification, aquaculture certification, eco-labelling, food safety and quality, and the implications for developing countries in terms of market access feasibility .

Small-scale fisheries, of significant importance in food security, poverty reduction and economic development in poor countries vis-à-vis the impact and potential benefits of growing international demand for fish and fish products.

Deep-sea fisheries, an object of growing concern to the international community, due to the characteristics of the target resources and their ecosystems in view of the weaknesses and deficiencies of the existing governance regime.

The establishment of ecosystem approaches for the management of fisheries activities.

The allocation of catch quotas, stakeholder participation and co-management.

The growing concern of the general public and the retail sector about the overexploitation of certain fish populations, such as bluefin tuna.

The widespread concern in exporting countries about the impact on legitimate exports caused by the introduction in 2010 of new traceability requirements in the most important markets to prevent Illegal, Unreported and Unreported (IUU) Unreported and Unregulated Fishing).

Approval by the FAO Conference in November 2009 of an Agreement on Port State Measures to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing.

Multilateral trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO), including the focus on fisheries subsidies related to overcapacity and overfishing.

The dissipation of economic income in the fishing sector is mainly due to excess capacity.

Climate change, carbon emissions, food miles (4) and the impact on the fisheries sector.

Energy prices and the impact of fishing activity.

The impact of a strong increase in imports of farm products on the national fishing sector.

Although it cannot be denied that the fisheries and aquaculture sector is increasingly under public scrutiny and is even sometimes heavily criticized and attacked, it is necessary to adopt a prudent and balanced position. Fish will continue to be an important, if not essential, staple food of humanity, although its sustainable use requires awareness of all the restrictions and challenges that must be faced, as well as the effective commitment of all agents involved, from fishermen to consumers, and from States to civil society organizations.