FAO State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report: 2016 Edition

Created on Wednesday, 24 August 2016

FAO Blog pic

Photo credit: Marine Photobank/Wahid Adnan

The global fisheries and aquaculture sector is an important source of employment, nutrition, and income, supporting the livelihoods of 12% of the world’s population. It is important to have an up-to-date, comprehensive, and accurate understanding of the state of our fisheries so that we can monitor and measure how changes in fisheries and aquaculture impacts both worldwide human and fish populations. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) releases a report every two years that does just that, aptly named The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. Aiming to provide a reliable and informed analysis of inclusive fisheries and aquaculture data and related issues, this globally scoped report covers a variety of topics such as illegal fishing, invasive species, fishing fleet status, governance and policy, bycatch mitigation, and fisheries resilience. The 2016 edition uses the latest official statistics on fisheries and aquaculture to present a global analysis of trends in fish stocks, production, processing, utilization, trade, and consumption. Sections of this report are highlighted below.

Due to the dependence on fisheries by millions of people around the world, coupled with the increasing supply of farmed seafood, worldwide per capita fish supply has reached a record high in 2014. World aquaculture production now provides half of all fish for human consumption, and for the first time ever has surpassed the contribution of wild-caught fish. In light of this, open ocean, coastal, and even freshwater fisheries are emphasized as having a large potential to contribute significantly to food security and adequate nutrition for a global population expected to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050.

Despite increased production and, in places, stronger fisheries management, the state of the world’s marine fish stocks has not improved, although some areas have seen notable progress. The ten most productive species accounted for 27% of the world’s marine capture fisheries production in 2013; however most of those stocks are fully fished with no potential for increases in production. Compounding this problem is a global fleet of 4.6 million fishing vessels. Among the implementation shortfalls there has still been considerate positive developments in relation to the FAO Fisheries Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries – considered a benchmark policy for ocean governance. There has also been notable progress in monitoring the status of fish stocks, compilation of statistics on catch and fishing effort, and the application of the FAO Code’s ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture.

Steps are also being taken to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and to control fishing capacity, including:

  1. A global application of the 2014 FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Flag State Performance, which serves as an important compliment to the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA). By improving the implementation of flag state responsibilities, ideally, illegal fishers will be deterred and denied access to states’ ports and markets;
  2. A new focus on implementing internationally agreed-upon International Plans Of Action for IUU fishing (IPOA-IUU); and
  3. A recognition of the need for market access and trade measures that would be beneficial to combat illegal fishing such as traceability, catch documentation, and ecolabeling schemes.

Similar to the work FishWise undertakes with its retail partnerships, the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report also highlighted the role that end-to-end traceability can play as an important tool to lend support to the sustainable and traceable seafood movement. Similarly, the report emphasizes global efforts to combat IUU fishing, which requires significant international coordination and cooperation. To aid support in the endeavor to build consensus and cooperation, FAO drafted guidelines in 2015 for catch documentation schemes based on these core principles:

  • Be in conformity with the provisions of relevant law
  • Not create unnecessary barriers to trade
  • Equivalence
  • Risk-based
  • Reliable
  • Simple, clear, and transparent
  • Electronic (if possible)


While these guidelines are voluntary, they provide states, intergovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders guidance for developing, implementing, reviewing, and harmonizing catch documentation schemes.

The FAO’s State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report details important global efforts, challenges, and progress made in the world fisheries and aquaculture sector. This latest edition emphasizes that the state of the world’s fisheries, despite progress in particular areas, is not improving. On the contrary, there has been improvement in developing and now implementing a progressive legal framework to combat IUU fishing as well as a realization that end-to-end traceability can lend support to providing consumers with legal, traceable, and sustainable seafood. As FishWise continues to work with its partners and other NGOs to deliver credible, market-based solutions for sustainably and ethically sourced seafood, it is encouraging to know that our goals align with those of the FAO – an internationally recognized and respected organization.