Based on the latest statistics from the FAO / USDA, and as stated in a recent report by the Earth Policy Institute (www.earth-policy.org ), an unprecedented milestone in food production for human consumption took place during 2011. For the first time in modern history, world aquaculture production exceeded the production of beef. This gap widened in 2012, when global aquaculture production reached a record 66 million tons, compared to beef productionat 63 million tons. It seems quite possible that 2013 may yet become the first year when global consumption of farmed fish overtakes consumption of wild fish. And more than just a statistical point, these trends illustrate the final stage of a historic change in the production of food for human consumption: a change that, in essence, indicates we have reached the limits of the planet’s natural productivity.
The conclusion is that it seems unlikely to obtain a lot more food based on natural productivity. Many grazing areas in the world are at the limit or above operating capacity, and most fisheries are overfished. Overgrazing leads to loss of vegetation and soil degradation. While the effects of overfishing are less visible, the historical analysis of fishing patterns reveals that fishing increasingly requires more effort to achieve the same level of catches. Higher energy consumption in the fishing fleets requiring longer journeys to increasingly distant fishing grounds, in deeper water and targeting less known species, are the main factors behind the near-collapse currently experienced by most commercial fisheries .
The key to any successful fisheries policy is the sustainability of natural resources. But animal production requires inputs, supplies or consumables such as feed and cereals. It takes seven kilograms of feed to produce 1 kg of beef. That’s double what is required in swine production, and three times the required feed in poultry production. Fish production is still much more efficient, requiring less than 2 kg of feed per kg produced. This partly explains that, although pork and chicken are the most widely consumed sources of animal protein in the world, the production of farmed fish is increasing at a faster pace. Average annual growth rates in the last five years have reflected the relative efficiency of animal feed, with global production of farmed fish registering a growth of around 6 percent annually, poultry 4 percent, pork 1.7 percent, rapidly overtaking the production of beef, which has barely increased.