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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 14:12 GMT
Global fish crisis 'to worsen'
Fish, BBC
Fish prices are expected to soar in future years
The global demand for fish is rising too fast to provide for the millions of people who rely on it as a basic foodstuff, according to a new report.

The WorldFish Center and the International Food Policy Research Institute estimate that fish production would have to double in the next 25 years to keep up with population growth.

They say this is virtually impossible, and warn the shortfall could have disastrous consequences for more than a billion people in developing countries.

The problems have been compounded by overexploitation of the seas, with restrictions now being placed on fisheries to preserve existing stocks.

"The world's fisheries are in serious trouble," Meryl Williams, director-general of the WorldFish Center, an international food and environment research body, said.

"There are very few fisheries in the world that aren't already fully fished or drastically overfished.

Fish survival

Fish is the fastest growing source of food in developing countries.

It is the primary source of animal protein for roughly a sixth of the world's population. But new research shows that demand greatly exceeds supply and the problem is growing.

Fish, AP
Fisheries have been overexploited
Average global fish consumption has almost doubled in less than 50 years, and catches would have to double again in the next 25 years to keep up with requirements.

However many fish stocks are already depleted, overfished, fully exploited or damaged by climate change.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that unless fishing is cut by almost a third worldwide, many remaining stocks will not survive.

Fish summit

Over the next two decades the WorldFish Center says fish will become scarcer and more expensive, with some species disappearing altogether and the quality of seafood declining.

It warns this will have significant impacts on food security, nutrition and income levels in developing countries, which it predicts will lead to increasing conflicts among and within countries.

It is possible to increase fish stocks artificially, but this often has drawbacks. Cultivating farmed stocks - aquaculture - can pollute nearby waters or transform ecosystems, while introducing genetically modified strains may pose a risk to wild stocks.

Fisheries experts, scientists and policy makers from 40 countries are due to meet at a summit in Malaysia on Sunday to try to work out how to solve this approaching global crisis.

See also:

18 Feb 02 | Boston 2002
16 Feb 02 | Boston 2002
29 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
27 Jul 01 | Science/Nature
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