Population growth is having a huge and compounding effect on the world fisheries. From the year 1960 to 2012, the world’s population more than doubled from 3 billion people to over 7 billion people (US Census Bureau, 2011).
Over that same time period, the combination of increased population and increased affluence has driven a 5 fold increase in worldwide fish consumption from about 25 million tons in 1960 to over 130 million tons today (UN FAO, 2011).
The effect on the world’s open water fisheries has been dramatic and often devastating. Increased fishing fleets and more aggressive fishing techniques have brought many of the world’s most productive fisheries to the brink of collapse. Despite increased fishing, the open water fish harvest has been flat since 1985 (UN FAO, 2011). If we continue to overfish the seas, we may lose key species of fish forever.
So how do we feed a growing world that increasingly wants to improve their diet and eat fish? The same way that we feed the world plant foods, through controlled and sustainable farming. Aquaculture and its next-generation evolution, aquaponics, are the answer to reducing the pressure on our open water fisheries, and feeding the world.
The Ever Increasing Demand For Seafood
The population of the world continues to grow dramatically. Figure 1 shows that over just the last 50 years, the world’s population has soared from 3 billion in 1960 to 7 billion today (US Census Bureau, 2011). At the same time, the globalization of industry is increasing the household income of much of the world’s population. An example is China. From 1992 to 2008, the disposable income of an urban dweller in China surged by 800% (BBC News, 2011).
Not surprisingly, as people have more income, they tend to want to eat more meat and fish. Figure 2 shows that as the per person income of a country increases, there can be as much as a 700% increase in that person’s consumption of meat and fish.
Figure 1: World Population Growth (US Census Bureau, 2011)
Figure 2: Protein Consumption vs Income (USDA, 2004)
The combination of increased population, increased wealth and shifting diets have led to a huge increase in demand for fish. Figure 3 shows that from 1960 to today, there has been a 500% increase in the demand for fish worldwide. Demand increases like this have had huge consequences for the fish population of the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers.
Figure 3: World Fish Consumption (UN FAO, 2011)