B efore the agricultural age started, man used to be gatherer, hunter and fisher. Getting fish, molluscs, shellfish and aquatic mammals has remained primarily a gathering activity until our days.
Although oceans and seas account for some 70% of the globe surface, food of aquatic origin only represent 1% the calories available in the world. In qualitative terms, however, their importance is higher and reaches 6% the total proteins, 15% the animal proteins available worldwide.
Carp, herring, and cod played a significant role in Europe during the agricultural age.
In recent time large-scale fishing and boat-factories have considerably increased marine catches raising fears of overexploitating the oceans.
Aquaculture, i.e. the rearing of aquatic animals has occurred for a very long time. This kind of production has tripled since the Second World War to now represent some 15% the total fishery products. China is the country with the largest production, followed by Japan.
The main nutritional function of fish and shellfish is to provide proteins. Fish therefore play a fundamental role in the nutritional balance of diets, particularly in the world poorest countries.
Industrialized countries, however, consume on average more than twice as much fish and aquaculture products than poor countries.
Are fishing and aquaculture able to significantly contribute to the world food balance of the future ? Their production potential has raised hopes. Scientists are aware that such results will only be achieved through a rigorous control of both fishing and production. A lot remains to be done!