The Transition in the
Contribution of Living
Aquatic Resources to
"A 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment" is an initiative of
the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to develop a shared
vision and a consensus for action on how to meet future world food needs
while reducing poverty and protecting the environment. It grew out of a
concern that the international community is setting priorities for allrJlCe in g
these problems based on incomplete information. Through the 2020 Vision
initiative, IFPRI is bringing together divergent schools of thought on tlhew
issues, generating research, and identifying recommendations.
This discussion paper series presents technical research results that encom-
pass a wide range of subjects drawn from research on policy-relevant
aspects of agriculture, poverty, nutrition, and the environment. The discus-
sion papers contain material that IFPRI believes is of key interest to those
involved in addressing emerging Third World food and development prob-
lems. These discussion papers undergo review but typically do not present
final research results and should be considered as works in progress.
Food, Agriculture, and the Environment Discussion Paper 13
The Transition in the
Living Aquatic Resources
to Food Security
International Food Policy Research Institute
1200 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-3006 U.S.A.
The Transition 1
The Contribution of Living Aquatic Resources to Food Security
during the Transition 24
Looking to 2020 and Beyond 25
How Can Research Contribute? 29
1. The transition in world fisheries and aquaculture 2
2. Finfish used by humans 8
3. Aquatic species used in aquaculture 8
4. Possible uses of living aquatic resources by peoples in the developing
world: Economic returns and employment prospects 18
5. Third generation research and development model for natural resource
management research 32
1. World population and fisheries and aquaculture production, 1961-93
with upper and lower projections to 2010 4
2. Growth in global marine catch, 1948-90 5
3. Status of the world's 200 main fish stocks, 1990 6
4. Daily per capital calorie consumption, 1961-90 7
5. Total catches of top 20 countries, 1991 9
6. Marine and inland fisheries production by continent, 1992 10
7. Total marine catch by developed and developing countries, 1970-93 10
8. Upwelling areas and coral reefs 11
9. Ranges of fish yields and primary production in various tropical
10. Biological and economic overfishing 13
11. World trade in fisheries products, 1987-91 14
12. Gradient of marine biotechnology 19
13. Integrated coastal zone management 23
This is the thirteenth paper in the Food, Agriculture, and the Environment Discussion Paper
series, a product of IFPRI's 2020 Vision initiative, which seeks to develop an international
consensus on how to meet future world food needs while reducing poverty and protecting the
environment. In this paper, Meryl Williams of the International Center for Living Aquatic
Resources Management (ICLARM) examines the current state and likely future condition of
the world's fish and other living aquatic resources as sources of food and suggests the role
that research can play in helping develop sustainable management practices for the world's
Although fish is often excluded from projections of future food supply, it is a very
important source of food and it offers a livelihood for huge numbers of people, including
many poor people, in developing countries. But overexploitation and other pressures on fish
stocks in many of the world's natural fisheries could threaten food security in much of the
developing world. Aquaculture-the farming of aquatic resources-is becoming increasingly
important, but it must be intensified significantly and sustainably.
Compared with terrestrial resources, we know relatively little about aquatic resources and
the systems within which they live. Research, improved knowledge, and better policies,
therefore, can mean the difference between the destruction of many fisheries resources and
improved management and use of these resources. In this paper, Meryl Williams shows how
research can help aquatic resources make the greatest possible contribution to food security.
Director General, IFPRI
I wish to acknowledge the following staff of the International Center for Living Aquatic
Resources Management (ICLARM) for their assistance in preparing this paper: J. Maclean for
extensive assistance with development of the paper and its final presentation; R. Pullin,
J. Munro, E. Eknath, and R. Pomeroy for comments on early drafts and assistance with
details; R. Froese for extracting information for the tables from Fishbase; C. Bunao for the
figures; N. Jhocson for sorting out the reference list; and members of the ICLARM Board of
Trustees. In addition, numerous scientists, managers, conservationists, and development
officials in Denmark and Canada offered helpful comments in recent discussions over many
of the issues herein.
The old proverb "Give a man a fish and you
feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and
you feed him for a lifetime" no longer holds. As
human populations increase and natural fisheries
resources diminish, knowing how to fish is not
enough for today's fishers and their families; many
would be better off learning how to grow fish or
trying another trade altogether.
Global changes in living aquatic resources could
threaten progress toward sustainable food security in
many parts of the developing world, but they could
also stimulate improved use of living aquatic re-
sources.' Some of the outcomes depend upon actions
taken today. Human beings have already trans-
formed the Earth's terrestrial environment and may
well have changed the global atmosphere. Now, evi-
dence shows that the inexorable collision of natural
resource limits, demography, technology, and social
values has triggered global changes in aquatic eco-
systems and their living resources. Users of fisher-
ies, aquaculture, and related enterprises face a period
of formidable transition as they adjust to the changes
and to an uncertain future. The transition period in a
complex system, however, is the time when actions,
even small ones, can have the greatest effect.
Aquatic products are rarely included in food
supply calculations and are frequently overlooked in
food security discussions at the national and global
level (James 1994).2 Cereals dominate most calcula-
tions of per capital supply and food security, but to
assure future food security, all foods and economic
activities, including production of aquatic products,
will be needed.
This discussion paper addresses the outlook for
living aquatic resources in food security and the role
of research in improving that outlook for those to
whom it matters most-low-income people in the
developing world. It first discusses the global situ-
ation and outlook since research must address the
strategic issues of the transition and thus help con-
tribute to its course. To date, research has played an
important though narrow role in the management of
living aquatic resources. The paper reviews the rea-
sons for this narrow role and describes an expanded
and more effective role for research.
Global fish supply is becoming increasingly scarce
and more subject to human influences. The transition
to relative scarcity cannot be prevented by more
intensive fishing but rather will be ameliorated by
better management of fisheries resources, improved
aquaculture production, better use of resources, and
interventions to improve equity. Human control of
supply will need to be better understood and more
wisely applied. The present transition follows the
rapid expansion of harvesting from the oceans and an
upsurge in aquaculture; greater areas and more
resources are exploited for their animal and plant
products. On the land, similar earlier expansions of
hunting and gathering, and the later transition to
cultivation and domestication, occurred when human
populations were small, interactions between different
human effects were negligible, technology had much
'Food security is defined as "physical and economic access, by all people at all times, to the basic food they need" (AGROVAC,
FAO's thesaurus used for the International Information System for Agricultural Sciences and Technology [AGRIS]). Food security
therefore embodies stable, sustainable, and predictable food supply; equity through access for all (through access to either the means
of production or purchasing power); and quality, including nutritional adequacy for life functions. Speth (1993) noted that sustainable
food security "fuses the goals of household food security and sustainable agriculture," therefore embodying the aspects listed and
"the protection and regeneration of the resource base for food production-terrestrial, aquatic, and climatic."
20f four major food supply studies reviewed by McCalla (1994), only Brown and Kane (1994) included fish and terrestrial animal
less power to transform practices and the environ-
ment, for better or for worse, and humans had little
knowledge of the long-term environmental effects.
Now, the transition facing aquatic resources is
happening rapidly and the effects will be far reaching.
The resources; the people who use and consume them;
production practices; management institutions; the
environment that supports them; and the local, na-
tional and international legal instruments governing
their ownership and use will all be affected (Table 1).
Without urgent anticipatory action, the world could
forgo billions of dollars of income, lose tens of mil-
lions of tons of high-quality protein food, sacrifice
millions of livelihoods, experience severe natural re-
source and environmental losses, and fail to exploit
potential benefits. The cost of rehabilitation is escalat-
ing exponentially; in some cases the damage may
become irreversible. The low-income people of the
developing world will be the hardest hit when their
fragile purchasing power and often tenuous access to
the means of production are further challenged.
Any benefits arising from the transition may not
be immediate and almost certainly will not be evenly
distributed. In many cases, users and policymakers
do not have sufficient know-how to extract the bene-
fits immediately; in others, rapid interventions are
required to reap the rewards.
The Present Situation in World
Aquatic resources are important food and economic
resources for many countries. Valued at US$70 bil-
lion in 1991, aquatic resources make up 19 percent
of total animal protein consumed and 4 percent of
Table 1-The transition in world fisheries and aquaculture
Affected Factor Before 1990 After 1990
Fisheries At limits of sustainable Beyond limits of sustainable production,
production some stocks collapsed
Aquaculture Expansion Expansion continues
Uses Food, feed Increasing nonfood use
Society and economics
Number of fishers Increasing Decreasing
Number of fish farmers Increasing Increasing
Resource conflicts Starting, few solutions Increasing, more solutions
Economics Overcapitalization Structural adjustments forced
Trade levels and prices Increasing Increasing
Fisheries Restrictions More restrictions
Aquaculture Technology application begins Increasing technology
Environment and climate
Effects on fisheries and Increasing Increasing to severe; aquaculture assists
International arrangements United Nations Convention on United Nations Conference on the
the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Environment and Development-
International Convention on Biological
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
United Nations Conference on Population
UNCLOS plus UN agreement on the
management of highly migratory
species and straddling stocks
total protein consumed (FAO 1992a). About 1 bil-
lion people rely on fish as their primary source of
animal protein. Production of fish products far out-
weighs that of any one of the four terrestrial animal
commodity groups (beef and veal, sheep meat, pig
meat, and poultry meat). In developing countries fish
production of approximately 60 million metric tons3
approaches the total production of all four animal
commodities (approximately 70 million tons). The
International Center for Living Aquatic Resources
Management has estimated that about 50 million
people are involved in small-scale fisheries through
catching, processing, and marketing (ICLARM 1992),
and fish production provides some 150 million people
overall with employment. Aquatic resources also pro-
vide important, though little recognized, environ-
mental and cultural values and services now and for
future generations, such as totem species, personal
ornamentation, and symbols of seasonal changes.
Recently the media and many multilateral agen-
cies have highlighted the crisis in the state of the
world's fisheries, brought to public attention by con-
cerns expressed by the Food and Agriculture Organi-
zation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World
Bank, growing attention from major conservation
groups, specific cases of collapsing fisheries in the
developed world (such as the cod fisheries of the
Grand Banks), and international fights over stocks
between the fishers of various countries (FAO
1992b, 1992c; Garcia and Newton 1994; World fish-
eries 1994; Weber 1994a, 1994b; World Resources
Five international initiatives, four coordinated
through different arms of the United Nations system,
will influence the transition in fisheries and aquacul-
ture. The first initiative is to expand on the provisions
of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea
(UNCLOS) to cover the management of high seas
fisheries and stocks that are shared by more than one
country or that straddle the waters of one country and
the high seas. This initiative was finalized in 1995. In
the second initiative, the FAO is coordinating the
drafting of a series of codes of practice on responsible
fishing and aquaculture, encompassing the principles
of the May 1992 Declaration of Cancun and the 1992
United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development (UNCED) Agenda 21 (FAO 1993a).
The third initiative is the 1993 International
Convention on Biological Diversity (ICBD), led by
national conservation policymakers and coordinated
by the United Nations Environment Programme
(UNEP). The ICBD has had little effect on fisheries
and aquaculture management and conservation so
far but has the potential to become the most influen-
tial instrument yet on fisheries, aquaculture, agricul-
ture, forestry, and all human uses of life forms.4
A fourth international arrangement, the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and the
associated establishment of the World Trade Organi-
zation to implement the decisions of the Uruguay
Round of trade negotiations, will also have an im-
pact on fisheries and aquaculture through the re-
placement of quotas with tariffs that will fall over
time, through the opening up of some previously
protected markets, and perhaps through environ-
mental provisions. The agreement downplayed envi-
ronmental and natural resource issues, however, in
favor of rules against undesirable trade protection
(see The cost of clean living 1994).
The fifth initiative is the UN Conference on
Population and Development held in Cairo in Sep-
tember 1994 by the UN Population Fund. Its out-
come should help achieve an eventual balance
among resources, development, and population, but
it does not obviate the effect of high per capital
consumption of resources-the other part of the
equation when balancing people and resources. Hu-
man populations will not fall fast enough to relieve
the immediate pressures on aquatic products.
Another initiative that has stimulated activity in
fisheries research and information is the multidonor
study/strategy on international fisheries research
3All tons in this paper are metric tons.
4The ICBD defines biological diversity in a conventional scientific way as "the variability among living organisms from all sources
including . terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes
diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems." The ICBD describes biodiversity as an attribute of life, distinguished
from biological resources, which "includes genetic resources, organisms or parts thereof, populations, or any other biotic component
of ecosystems with actual or potential use or value for humanity." However, the ICBD then points out that to fulfill legal obligations,
parties will have to in fact conserve and manage biological resources and ecosystems. Therefore, the ICBD contains the legal powers
to govern all uses of life, including agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, and forestry. It addressed agriculture first, because of that
sector's long and well-documented use and transformation of plant and animal genetic materials. Fisheries and aquaculture uses and
effects on biodiversity are less well known and thus aquatic biodiversity issues generally have received little attention.
Figure 1-World population and fisheries and aquaculture production, 1961-93 with upper and
lower projections to 2010
(million metric tons)
Source: FAO 1993c and FAO 1995.
Note: Projections are based on a major expansion in aquaculture (to 39 million metric tons) and a reversal in the decline of capture fisheries
through good management and better use.
(World Bank et al. 1993; Strategy on international
fisheries research 1994).
Production. Production of fish by capture fisheries
(total production minus aquaculture) reached its upper
limit in 1989 (about 89 million tons) and declined to
85 million tons in 1993 (Figure 1). The expansionary
phase of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s is over. For
decades, if not centuries, humans have attempted to
forecast the capacity of the oceans to feed the world
(see, for example, Gulland 1970 and Idyll 1978). For
the majority of natural fisheries resources,5 these lim-
its have been discovered through a combination of
scientific research and monitoring and some practical
if unintended experiments involving the fishing of
stocks to or beyond their limits. The FAO predictions
of Gulland (1970) appear to have been right in aggre-
gate (about 100 million tons of sustainable annual
production), though sometimes wrong in detail.6 Now
the upper biological limit is falling for many species
as overexploitation erodes the resource base. In addi-
tion, for most fisheries the economic returns on opera-
tional costs and investments are negative, indicating
that the economic values are totally depleted.
In 1993 estimates, world production was 84.3
million tons of marine products (93 percent from
capture fisheries) and 17.2 million tons of inland
aquatic products (38 percent from capture fisheries).
Thus, global dependence on production from natural
fisheries resources was about 83 percent in 1993,
down from 89 percent when global production
peaked at 100.3 million tons in 1989.
5The term "fisheries resources" encompasses those living aquatic resources taken for human use. In addition to fish (teleosts and
elasmobranchs), they include invertebrates echinodermss, crustaceans, and mollusks) and plants such as micro- and macroalgae. The
plants are usually reported separately in statistics, although their harvest and culture, particularly in Asia, are important, and they serve
many food and other product uses. Unless specifically mentioned, aquatic plants are not included in the statistics quoted in this paper.
In 1992, 6.1 million tons of aquatic plants were harvested, 5.4 million tons of which were cultured.
6For example, Williams and Stewart (1993) pointed out that the Gulland (1970) estimate for Australian waters was approximately an
order of magnitude too optimistic (over 2 million tons were predicted, but only about 200,000 tons were realized with development),
because of extrapolations from regions with much higher primary productivity than that of the Australian fishing zone.
As populations continue to grow, especially in
the developing world, and production from natural
resources declines, the world is expecting aquacul-
ture production to help bridge the supply-demand
gap. World aquaculture production (marine and in-
land) more than doubled between 1984 (the first year
with recorded global statistics) and 1993, reaching
16.3 million tons (FAO 1995). It is difficult to esti-
mate potential global production because new tech-
nologies and new enterprises will certainly push the
potential up, within the limits of the natural resource
base and access to it. In contrast to natural fisheries
production, production from aquaculture could
greatly increase if care is taken in the expansion.
The downward trend for marine capture fisher-
ies production is a cause for both national and inter-
national concern. At the global level of aggregation,
it masks a range of important resource, trade, and
catch disposition trends within parts of the developing
world. From the late 1940s to 1971, annual marine
fisheries production increased by 6 percent per year
on average (Figure 2). After the collapse of the great
Peruvian anchoveta fishery, however, annual pro-
duction growth fell to only 2.3 percent in the 1970s
and 1980s. Much of these smaller production increases
Figure 2-Growth in global marine catch, 1948-9(
Million metric tons
I 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
over the last two decades reflects an increased num-
ber of countries reporting catches to the FAO, a
greater number of different species landed, and an
increase in the extent of waters fished. Catches of
many of the species groups with the longest histories
of harvesting, such as demersal fish, lobsters, and
sharks, have increased little over the last 20 years.
Production statistics give only a partial picture
of production trends and potentials, which depend on
the amount of fishing effort applied and the capacity
of stocks to sustain catches in the long term. Out of
200 fished stocks in all parts of the world, FAO
revealed that more than a quarter are overexploited,
depleted, or recovering and therefore would produce
greater catches only if returned to a healthier state
(Figure 3). Thirty-eight percent are fully exploited
and therefore cannot produce more catch without
depleting the base stock. Only a little more than a
third could produce more (FAO 1992b).
Despite the near doubling of the world popula-
tion, the daily per capital supply of calories from
fisheries and aquaculture has increased by more than
70 percent in developing and by about 50 percent in
developed countries since 1961 (Figure 4). Average
per capital consumption is already dropping, though
Source: FAO 1993e.
W0 CD 00t =1 00t 0 WX C, W C 0O
In In In o00
0,~ 0e0- 0~c- ~ ~ -c c l c -0-O-0' 0' 0
Figure 3-Status of the world's 200 main fish stocks, 1990
Percentage of stocks
Status Under- Moderately Fully Over- Depleted
unknown exploited exploited exploited exploited
Source: FAO 1992b.
the leveling off started one year earlier in the devel-
The Biological Resource Base. Capture fisheries
are the largest users of natural biological resources
today. In theory, as fishing reduces the abundance of
a stock, compensatory growth produces a surplus
(likened to the interest on the capital of the resource
base) that can be sustainably harvested over time. In
practice, estimating the capital base required to
maintain the maximum interest or surplus production
is difficult. Even if the base is known, it fluctuates
from year to year, species interact through predation
and competition, and the capital is difficult to main-
tain when immediate social and economic pressures
push for exploiting not just the surplus but also the
The complex composition of the resource base
adds to the challenges of estimating sustainable pro-
duction. High biodiversity at the genetic, species,
and ecosystem levels is a key attribute of the living
aquatic resource base. Humans use about 5,000 dif-
ferent species of fish and many hundreds of crusta-
ceans, mollusks, and echinoderms directly (see Table 2
for numbers of fish) and rely on many more species
indirectly through food and habitat support. The har-
vested species have varying biological characteristics
that affect their seasonal and geographic distribu-
tion, abundance, and availability.
The great majority of species are taken only in
small quantities. In 1991, more than 40 percent of
global production consisted of 24 species each having
catches of half a million tons or more (FAO 1993b).
Almost all species, including the 24 major species, are
caught in association with other nontarget species. A
recent study found that the annual global catch of
nontarget and discarded marine species is approxi-
mately 27 million tons, a figure much higher than any
previous estimates (Alverson et al. 1994).
Fishing affects biodiversity, but its effects have
yet to be investigated in any substantive way. The
composition of marine communities often changes
when the abundance of major fished species is re-
duced. For example, large food fish were common in
the demersal communities of the Gulf of Thailand in
the early days of fishing but have now given way to
small, short-lived fish and squid and shrimp commu-
nities (Pauly 1979; Boonyubol and Pramokchutima
1982). The fishing out of the top predators on coral
reefs in Jamaica appears to have caused a population
explosion of algal-grazing sea urchins, which later
collapsed and permitted algae to overgrow the reefs
(Done 1992; Hughes 1994). Overfishing is consid-
ered one of the three major anthropogenic factors
Figure 4-Daily per capital calorie consumption, 1961-90
(1961 = 100)
1965 1969 1973
1965 1969 1973 1977 1981 1985 1989
Source: Data are from FAO 1993d.
affecting the degradation of coral reefs in all oceans;
the other two are nutrient enrichment of reef waters
from terrestrial runoff and sedimentation.
Few marine species other than reptiles and mam-
mals are listed as endangered or vulnerable, although
many freshwater fish species are listed on national and
international lists. The listings appear to reflect the
relatively poor knowledge of marine biota; the possi-
ble greater resiliency of marine species to extinctions;
and the fact that most marine ecosystems have so far
been less subject to wholesale change, fragmentation,
and removal than terrestrial systems.
Aquaculture production uses at least 181 species
(Table 3). Many are native to their culture localities,
but there are notable exceptions such as salmon,
trout, tilapias, and carp, which have been widely
Table 2-Finfish used by humans
of Species of All Species
Extant finfish 24,618 100.0
Fish used in industrial
and artisanal fisheries 2,576 10.5
Fish used in aquaculture" 179 0.7
Fish used as bait 134 0.5
Fish used in ornamental trade 1,980 8.0
Marine fish 546
Freshwater fish 1,434
Mainly artificially reared 773
Fish used as sport fish 798 3.2
Total used by humans 4,572 18.6
Finfish affected by humans
Threatened 770 3.1
Introduced 221 0.9
Finfish affecting humans
Dangerous 437 1.8
Source: ICLARM FishBase as of January 9, 1994.
Notes: Although FishBase does not yet contain all species, the above
statistics should already provide a reasonable estimate, since
ICLARM has made an effort to include all species that are used
by humans. The number for fisheries is underestimated because
many species that are important in artisanal fisheries are not
reported in the literature. The same is true for bait fishes.
aSpecies used for food or stock enhancement in commercial aquaculture.
bSpecies transferred to and established in another country.
CSpecies that are, for example, poisonous or traumatogenic.
introduced to new localities. Although aquaculture
has been practiced for more than 2,000 years in
China, for example, and more than 1,000 years in
Europe, until recently it has not been subject to the
same intensive development of its genetic resource
base and culture practices as terrestrial agriculture.
For example, genetic improvement of fish is esti-
mated to lag behind similar advances in terrestrial
Table 3-Aquatic species used in aquaculture
Number of Species
of Higher Taxa That
Number Account for More
of Species Than 95 Percent of
Commodity Group Cultured Commodity Group
Seaweeds 6 4
Mollusks 43 9
Crustaceans 27 7
brackishwater fish 72 17
Marine fish 33 4
Total 181 41
Sources: Based on Pullin 1994. Original data and nomenclature from
De Luca 1988, Taiwan Fisheries Bureau 1990, and FAO 1991.
livestock by nearly 50 years (Eknath et al. 1991).
Standard selective breeding techniques for enhanced
production were begun for Atlantic salmon only in
1975 (Gjedrem, Gjerde, and Refstie 1988) and for
tilapias by the International Center for Living
Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM) and
partners only in the late 1980s. There is mounting
concern that the genetic bases of many key species
of cultured fish are deteriorating to the extent of
lowering average growth performance (see, for ex-
ample, Eknath and Doyle 1990 on Indian major
carps) or that the most common strains used may not
always be the best performers (see Eknath et al. 1993
on Nile tilapia strains in the Philippines).
The distinctions between natural and cultured
stocks are disappearing where cultured and natural
stocks mix. There is, for example, biological compe-
tition between hatchery-reared and natural stocks
in enhancement programs for capture fisheries
(Hilbom and Winton 1993) and when farmed fish
escape to the wild.
Species used in aquaculture cover the range
from giant clams, which obtain most of their nutri-
tion from symbiotic photosynthesizing zooxanthel-
lae (Munro and Gwyther 1981; Klumpp, Bayne, and
Hawkins 1992) and herbivores (tilapias, milkfish,
and some carp) to high-level carnivores and omni-
vores (shrimp, crabs, salmon, and trout). The trophic
levels of many cultured aquatic species are much
higher than those of their terrestrial equivalents ex-
cept goats and pigs. Feed supply for higher-level
predators is therefore important to the economics
and efficiency of their production. Some cultured
species depend on fish meal and fish oil in feed.
Tacon (1994) estimates that the fish meal component
of diets in aquaculture will eventually be reduced
to about half.
The Geography of Production and Consumption.
By volume, fisheries and aquaculture production is
remarkably concentrated. Since most production
comes from natural resources, natural resource
endowments and the extent of distant-water fishing
are the major reasons for national and regional dif-
ferences, although aquaculture development is also
For total fisheries and aquaculture production,
the top six countries (China, Japan, the former Soviet
Union, Peru, Chile, and the United States) produce
more than half of the world's fish catch, and the top
20 countries produce more than 80 percent of the
catch (Figure 5). In 1991, the former Soviet Union,
Japan, and the United States took 3.2, 1.0 and
Figure 5-Total catches of top 20 countries, 1991
(million metric tons)
of World Catches
m r 0
ntC 4) 0 U nl rt 'O n i M tO O C C
W t _m M 0 Z V g|
*S a *a .c ii 0z p,0 c 2 -
a J__ U 00
F- 0 *, M
I 0 0
Source: FAO 1993d.
0.2 million tons, respectively, in nonadjacent waters
(FAO 1993c). A breakdown of total production by
continent shows the dominance of Asia in both ma-
rine and inland production (Figure 6). Total marine
catches from the developing countries have ex-
ceeded those from the developed countries since the
mid-1980s (Figure 7).
The production of complex organic substances
such as amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates from
simple inorganic forms of carbon, nitrogen, and oxy-
gen compounds is known as primary production.
The ecosystems in which the greatest primary pro-
duction occurs are upwellings, coastal and coral reef
systems, ponds, and lakes (Figures 8 and 9). Pauly
and Christensen (1994) have calculated that 8 per-
cent of aquatic primary production is captured in
products for human use. In coastal upwellings, tropi-
cal and temperate shelves, and inland waters, 25-35
percent of primary production is taken up in the
aquatic food webs leading to human use. (By compari-
son, Vitousek et al. 1986 calculated that for terrestrial
ecosystems, 35-40 percent of total primary produc-
tion was used by humans.)
Most of the very productive aquatic ecosystems
occur close to continents or land; about 90 percent of
capture fisheries production comes from coastal
waters within the 200-nautical-mile zones of coastal
states (Garcia and Newton 1994). Where country
boundaries adjoin, however, many stocks are shared,
and thus fisheries production and its management
have a geopolitical dimension.
Fish consumption is also geographically diverse.
It is highest in maritime countries with greater access
owing to greater supplies, greater purchasing power,
or fewer alternative sources of animal protein. In the
Maldives, Japan, and Iceland, daily per capital con-
sumption is more than 200 calories, or nearly 10 per-
cent of total food calories. Japan used 13 percent of the
world fish catch for human consumption in 1991
(FAO 1993d). Relative to total animal protein con-
sumption, people in Asia, Oceania, and Africa consume
more fish than those in the Americas and Europe.
The Economics of World Fisheries. Though it is
less well documented globally than the biological
outlook, the economic situation of the world's fish-
eries stock is also poor (Garcia and Newton 1994).
FAO (1992a) estimated that the world fishing fleet
increased at twice the rate at which catches increased
over the last 20 years. Even more serious, the fleet
Figure 6-Marine and inland fisheries production by continent, 1992
3.9% Soviet Union
Marine Fisheries Production
Inland Fisheries Production
Source: FAO 1994.
Figure 7-Total marine catch by developed and developing countries, 1970-93
Million Metric Tons
--. Developed countries
1976 1978 1980 1982 14
Source: FAO 1992b.
. U a
Figure 9-Ranges of fish yields and primary production in various tropical ecosystems
Fish Yield (metric tons per
square kilometer per year)
(grams of carbon per square meter per year)
Source: International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM).
Note: Dots at the intersection of ranges represent modal values. Solid portions of the bars represent the range of maximum sustainable yields.
Dashed projections at the top of the ranges for estuaries and ponds represent elevated yields from aquaculture with fertilization (but no
supplemental feeding). The dashed projection for continental shelves represents higher yields that occur in areas of upwelling.
operates at an overall deficit of US$15 billion, ex-
cluding the return on capital from operational costs.
This deficit is not surprising since fisheries eco-
nomic theory suggests that maximum economic
yield obtains from an exploited stock when fishing
effort, and hence biological yield, is below that
required to take the maximum biological yield (Fig-
ure 10). The majority of the world's fished stocks are
fished at effort levels greater than those required to
take the maximum sustainable biological yield.
Present fisheries operations at all scales are eco-
nomically inefficient. Overcapitalization and eco-
nomic overfishing are significant problems in both
developed and developing countries (see Trinidad et
al. 1993 on the Philippines fisheries for small pelagic
species; Ahmed 1991 on the riverine fisheries of
Bangladesh; and Solorzano et al. 1991 on the fisher-
ies of Costa Rica). In the developing world, where
lack of access to capital is a significant impediment
to economic progress, scarce capital is used on too
many vessels and too much gear. Fishing capacity is
far in excess of that required to take the maximum
sustainable yield and even further in excess of that
required for economic efficiency.
Garcia and Newton (1994) presented a global
bioeconomic analysis of world fisheries based on the
Figure 10-Biological and economic overfishing
Value and Yield
1989 catch and fleet. They concluded that further in-
creases in fishing effort would barely increase the catch
but would cause further declines in catch per unit of
effort. Further, they showed that the current fleet costs
were so great that no amount of fishing effort by the
fleet could produce a revenue to match the costs.
Supply, Demand, and World Trade. Internationally,
the products of fisheries and aquaculture are heavily
traded goods. In 1990, 10 countries (Denmark,
France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Spain,
Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States)
each imported more than US$1 billion of aquatic
products. Thirteen countries exported more than
US$1 billion of aquatic products (Canada, Chile,
China, Denmark, France, Iceland, Indonesia, the Re-
public of Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Thailand,
the United Kingdom, and the United States) (FAO
1993b).Trade grew from 32 percent of world produc-
tion in 1980 to 38 percent of world production in 1990
(FAO 1993b). By comparison, only 4 percent of rice
and 22 percent of wheat are traded.
On balance, the developing countries export
more-most of it to the developed countries-than
they receive in imports, and this trend is likely to
continue (Figure 11). This is the reverse of trade
Maximum sustainable yield
-------Maximum economic yiel------------
Maximum economic yield
- - - - - - ----
Source: International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM).
Figure 11-World trade in fisheries products, 1987-91
Million Metric Tons
30 -- Imports
1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
Developing countries Developed countries
Source: FAO 1993d.
patterns for many other food commodities, espe-
cially cereals, for which developing countries are net
importers. In the near future, developed countries
will continue to be net importers of aquatic products
unless they increase their aquaculture production
dramatically or unless overall production in devel-
oping countries declines sharply. The latter may well
occur without better resource management.
Trade and the high economic value of some
species will place additional pressures on develop-
ing countries to exploit their stocks and intensify
their aquaculture. For some long-lived and slow-
growing species such as sharks and groupers, the
sustainable catch levels are low, whereas the eco-
nomic incentives to take them may be high, causing
a conflict between biological sustainability and eco-
nomics. In purely economic terms and if the harvest-
ing costs are ignored, it makes economic sense to
conserve fisheries resources only when their intrinsic
per capital population growth rate exceeds the dis-
count rate (or the bank interest rate) (May 1976). If
this is not the case, it is economically optimal to take
the whole stock and bank the proceeds. Thus, if
purely economic considerations apply, many re-
sources with low productivity would be "mined"
and the economic gains invested to realize greater
returns on capital elsewhere.
The supply-demand gap is predicted to in-
crease in the near future, and this growing gap will
keep pressure on trade and prices. The FAO pre-
dicts that by 2010 total world fisheries and
aquaculture production will be between 10 and
30 percent higher than current levels, supplying a
world population 36 percent larger than the current
level (FAO 1993b).
Prices offish have risen faster than those of beef,
pork, and chicken since 1975 (Weber 1994a). Mar-
ket demand is high but elastic. The elasticities of
supply and demand between seafood and other types
of animal protein such as chicken and pork are not
well understood. Value-added seafood products are
being designed to cater to the same convenience
food markets as many other animal protein products;
examples are tuna burgers, various surimi products,
and fish fingers.
As market prices have risen, low-income fishers
and fish farmers have started to sell more of their
production in markets. Unless their own production
increases, they must resort to consuming only
smaller and lower-market-value fish in the house-
hold, thus lowering the quality of the fish they eat
(Hossain and Afroze 1991; Brummett 1994).
Although consumers have been disadvantaged
by rising prices, producers also are disadvantaged by
the cost structures of their sector. Garcia and Newton
(1994) conclude that fisheries resources are severely
underpriced relative to the costs of catching by an
overcapitalized sector. For world fisheries to be-
come economically viable at 1989 fleet levels, either
prices would have to rise by 71 percent, or costs
would need to be lowered by 42 percent, or some
combination of raised prices and lowered costs
would need to take place.
About 30 percent of world fisheries production
goes to animal feeds in agriculture and aquaculture
(FAO 1993d). Chamberlain (1993) estimates that the
world aquaculture feed market in the year 2000 will
demand 4.6 million tons offish feed, 1.2 million tons
of fish meal, and 0.4 million tons of fish oil, in-
creases of 56 percent, 50 percent, and 77 percent,
respectively, over their 1990 amounts. These projec-
tions are based on the extrapolation of current pro-
duction trends for the main cultured species and thus
reflect production of a high proportion of carnivorous
and omnivorous species such as salmon, trout,
shrimp, and catfish. With further research, however,
the fish component of feeds could be substantially
reduced and replaced with vegetable proteins. The
projections also would be different ifa greater share
of the increased production were to come from herbi-
vores such as tilapias.
The marketing of seafood is challenging because
of the product's seasonality, perishability, and vari-
ety. The challenges and opportunities are addressed
internationally by a comprehensive global trade in-
formation system (made up of the GLOBEFISH,
INFOFISH, and other regional networks) un-
matched by any other food commodity network. To
date, only one product-frozen, headless white cul-
tured shrimp-has been sufficiently standardized to
provide a futures market.
The People in Fisheries and Aquaculture. Popula-
tion growth and social, cultural, and economic organi-
zation have helped shape the present transition in
fisheries. Weber (1994a) estimates that 14 to 20 mil-
lion people are involved directly in small-scale fish-
ing, and ICLARM (1992) finds that about 50 million
are involved in the whole sector. In villages, towns,
and cities, many more depend on the products for
food. Employment in the fisheries sector has grown
with coastal communities, and it is dynamic because
of the mobility and seasonality of the resources, tech-
nological developments, and interactions with other
sectors, especially other rural sectors.
In most societies, small-scale fishers have low
social status and few options for earning a livelihood.
In developing countries dominated by the agricultural
sector, many are technically landless. Fishing is often
one of the last occupations people can enter when
other options in agriculture or manufacturing are
closed. Small-scale fishers work for themselves with
minimal gear or can sell their labor to larger operators.
Access to resources has usually been free, but the
entitlements of this access are ill-defined and tenuous.
As the resource degrades, fishers are often left with
little. Even farmers on small holdings have greater
stability of tenure over the means of production and
hence nutrition and income generation. The competi-
tive nature of many fisheries, especially under scar-
city, makes cooperative social investment more diffi-
cult. In such a situation, economic development may
be linked to the accumulation of so-called social capi-
tal in a society, where social capital is the sum of coop-
erative, mutually supportive relationships, obligations,
and dues among people (Putnam 1994).
Small-scale fishers have little political influence
compared with large-scale fishers and other sectors of
the economy. Pauly (1994a) describes the marginali-
zation of small-scale fishers. Their interests are fre-
quently ignored in major policies and decisions. For
example, fishers and fisheries resources appear to
have been ignored almost completely, or received too
little attention, in major recent initiatives such as the
Pak Mool Dam in Thailand (Sukin 1994), the Bangla-
desh Flood Action Plan (Pearce 1994), and the World
Bank discussion paper on an environmental strategy
for Asia (Brandon and Ramankutty 1993).
Fishing is overwhelmingly a male activity in
most of the developed and developing world. With
few exceptions, women's roles consist of shellfish
gathering and postharvest activities such as process-
ing, transport to market, selling, and buying.
Women's opportunities to participate in fisheries
and aquaculture activities are governed by their per-
mitted social roles and other commitments. For ex-
ample, Hviding (1993) found no women enrolled as
participants in village trials for giant clam culture in
the Solomon Islands, causing him not only to specu-
late on how this situation could be changed but also
to remark that these women had little spare time
owing to their other duties such as gardening, glean-
ing, and collecting firewood. In Bangladesh, how-
ever, women usually are not permitted to do a range
of field work or to go to the markets and thus have
some spare time for fish husbandry. Some ICLARM
trials in small-scale pond aquaculture in Bangladesh
have had up to 60 percent women participants.
All scales of fishing, from artisanal to large in-
dustrial, are dangerous because of a combination of
vessel layout and the difficulties of working com-
plex and cumbersome gear in the dynamic aquatic
environment (McGoodwin 1990; Warner 1983). In
the developing world, desperate, poverty-driven,
destructive fishing practices are common, including
dynamite and cyanide fishing, and boats run by
absentee owners who use poorly paid, very young
fishing crews. These practices sometimes create
demeaning and dangerous physical conditions more
akin to the darkest days of the Industrial Revolution
and the pearl-diving industries of the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries than the last decades of
the twentieth century.
The Environment and Climate. Like other biological
production industries, fisheries and aquaculture de-
pend heavily upon climate and the environment. In
many parts of the world, especially the developing
world, environmental quality is deteriorating, inevita-
bly affecting production potential. Some fisheries and
aquaculture practices also contribute to the decline in
the quality of the environment. Laevastu (1993) points
out that fluctuations in natural fisheries resources may
be caused by ocean climate, pollution, the effects of
fishing and other human activities, and ecosystem
processes such as predation and disease.
Aquatic ecosystems are generally less well under-
stood than their terrestrial and atmospheric equiva-
lents. A key environmental concept is the functional
integrity of the resource system, particularly that re-
quired to maintain habitats and sustain production.
For example, compared with terrestrial systems, re-
searchers have little understanding yet of what forms
of habitat destruction and modification lead to loss of
habitat integrity in aquatic systems. Whereas terres-
trial systems are usually considered to be structured
around relatively immobile features such as soil and
higher-order vegetation (trees and grasses), aquatic
systems may be structured around more mobile habi-
tat features such as phytoplankton and zooplankton,
water temperature, water quality, and currents. Be-
cause of the mobility of many aquatic features, the
connectivity between aquatic systems is far greater
than between terrestrial systems, so that the impact of
events in one part of the ecosystem can spread rapidly
to other parts of the system. Aquatic systems based on
large sessile features, such as reefs, mangroves, and
seagrass beds, have habitat features more akin to those
in terrestrial systems.
Aquatic systems are the eventual sinks for all
terrestrial and atmospheric pollutants. Contamina-
tion from heavy metals, organic and inorganic
chemicals, and harmful algal blooms is increasing
worldwide, in the developing as well as the devel-
oped world, leading to large economic and food
losses and some loss of lives (Hallegraeff 1993;
Maclean 1993; Corrales and Maclean 1994). Most
aquatic organisms have fragile, planktonic egg and
larval life stages in which they are particularly sensi-
tive to environmental pollutants.
Fished stocks are large and important compo-
nents of their aquatic environments. Generally
higher up the food or trophic chain than the terres-
trial animal equivalents used for food, they average
two full trophic levels above primary producers. Di-
rect removal by fishing will therefore change natural
systems by altering the abundance of higher-order
predators in food chains. Many fishing practices
modify habitats: for example, bottom trawling re-
moves some living communities, disturbs sediment,
and catches many incidental species; deployment of
fish-aggregating devices, by their shape and attached
biological communities, attract pelagic surface- and
midwater-swimming species such as tuna and mack-
erel. Aquaculture can also pollute the environment,
affecting its own viability and that of surrounding
Aquatic systems, which cover more than 70 per-
cent of the Earth's surface, have major influences on
global climate through the hydrological cycle (water
heats and cools the environment through its various
forms as vapor, clouds, liquid, snow, and ice) and
through their part as sinks of about one-third of
anthropogenic carbon dioxide (Chahine 1992;
Siegenthaler and Sarmiento 1993). Likewise, aquatic
systems themselves are influenced by climate and
climate change. The 1982-83 El Nifio, for example,
raised sea surface temperatures by 5 degrees Celsius
in some parts of the Pacific, limiting primary produc-
tion and causing large changes in fish abundances
(Laevastu 1993). The effect of the present protracted
El Nifio event, which commenced in 1991-92, on
global fish production has yet to be examined. Inland
pond aquaculture, like agriculture, is directly
affected by climate, especially rainfall and tempera-
ture, stream runoff, and general water availability.
Postharvest. Most aquatic products are highly perish-
able, and postharvest losses can be high, especially in
the developing world where infrastructure (ice plants,
freezers, and processing plants) is often inadequate.
Drying is the chief method used for long-term storage
in low-income communities. Action that minimizes
postharvest losses and deterioration will help improve
the supply of aquatic products.
Many aquatic products command different mar-
ket values depending on the form in which they are
sold. The price per kilo for one species can vary by
up to three orders of magnitude depending on
whether it is sold live, fresh for sashimi (raw fish),
frozen, dried, fresh for cooking, or canned. Often the
products that have undergone the least postharvest
processing (for example, live or sashimi fish) obtain
the highest price. Few other food products have the
same plasticity and therefore opportunities for add-
ing value even without increasing production.
Five Cross-Cutting Issuesfor the Transition
Anticipating the outcome of the transition requires
addressing five issues: use, resource management,
intensification, integration with other sectors, and
national versus international interests. These issues,
which are relevant for all countries and resources,
interact with each other. For example, options for
better use are of no value to a small-scale fisher who
has no security of access to aquatic resources; inter-
national markets and trade will play a big role in how
resources are eventually used; interactions between
fisheries and other sectors in the coastal zone will
affect access rights and can limit options for use; and
new technologies from international sources will
have a big influence in new options for use and for
intensification of aquaculture.
Options for Use. Living aquatic resources, now
mainly harvested directly for human food, offer per-
haps the greatest range of potential uses of any bio-
logical resource. Users should seek the best possible
economic, social, and cultural use of the resource.
Much greater economic value may often be obtained
from a given quantity of resource depending on how
it is used. Table 4 lists possible uses of living aquatic
resources and rates them according to economic and
cultural values and employment prospects in the
Researchers and users need to keep open minds
on how best to use living aquatic resources for sustain-
able food security. Such resources can be used directly
as high-quality food and indirectly for other economic
ends such as livestock and aquaculture feed; crop
fertilizer; jewelry (pearls and shells); recreation (game
fishing, diving, and ecotourism on coral reefs); food
additives (carrageen from macroalgae); additives in
the production of cosmetics, shampoo, detergents, and
industrial lubricants (macroalgae); bases for produc-
tion of industrial, medical, and other chemicals via the
application of marine biotechnology; and protectors
of the environment, such as mangroves, which protect
tropical coasts (Norse 1993, Table 3).
Nonfood uses are of two types: those that obtain
lower prices than fish sold for human food, such as
fish meal, and those that fetch higher prices than
human food, such as pearls. As contributors to food
security, the latter are usually more important than the
former, although the former also make an indirect
contribution. The critical question to ask of lower-
priced uses is whether a greater contribution could be
made by using the resources more directly for human
food or for some other higher-priced alternative.
As price and demand increase, more pressure
could result in the use of bycatch from industrial
fleets for human consumption. The projected high
demand for fish meal and fish food for aquaculture
could diminish if plant protein substitutes are devel-
oped rapidly. Alternatively, demand may be difficult
to meet if more of the fish go to human consumption.
Most of the catch for fish food and meal is of small
schooling pelagics caught in large quantities. These
are difficult to preserve quickly and safely except in
industrial-scale operations. Technology and market
price shifts could change this.
Another dimension of use in aquaculture is the
timing of returns on investments. Sometimes a use
other than for human food brings earlier returns; for
example, ICLARM's clam research shows that cul-
tured giant clams in coral reef lagoons take about
7 years to reach the best size for the high-value
adductor muscle market in Asia. At 6 to 12 months,
however, the clams can be harvested and sold to the
marine home aquarium trade, and at 24 months they
can be used for sashimi, thus bringing in earlier cash
flows for village producers. The effect on food secu-
rity is positive since any losses to the Hong Kong
restaurant trade will not result in starvation but will
give the village producer money to buy staple foods
or to reinvest.
Reducing postharvest losses is a direct and im-
mediate way to improve use. Losses can be mini-
mized by better handling of the product and the
development of aquaculture species and strains that
travel better to markets or the home table. Reduced
losses will also improve predictability and stability
of supply. Donor agencies and national investors
should make more development investments in post-
harvest operations than in fishing vessels and gear.
However, the scale of infrastructure investment for
postharvest handling should match the size of the
Table 4-Possible uses of living aquatic resources by peoples in the developing world:
Economic returns and employment prospects
Economic and Employment
Use Cultural Value Prospects
Fishing for human food Low to high Low to high
Fishing for animal feed Low Low
Gathering for traditional medicines High Low
Gathering for jewelry and ornaments High High
Gathering or culturing for ornamental/aquarium trade High Moderate
Bioprospecting for new chemical uses Low to high Low
Aquaculture for human food Low to high Low to high
Aquaculture for industry additives (such as food,
cosmetics, and lubricants) Moderate Moderate
Recreational and sport fishing High High
Oils High Moderate
Chitin Low Low
Leather, skins High Moderate
Marine protected areas Low to high Low
Ecotourism, diving, underwater photography, whale
watching High? Moderate
Tag and return gamefishing High Low
Saving biodiversity in the world Low to high Low
Biocontrol in ponds and rice fields Low Moderate
Diversification of small-scale agriculture to improve
farm productivity and reduce risk Low High
Integration of aquaculture with agriculture to improve
on-farm resource cycling Low High
Integration of aquaculture with agriculture to improve
soil fertility and crop productivity Moderate High
Animals and plants as filters of excess pollutants and
nutrients in water systems Low Low
Religious value High Low
National icons, identity High Low to high
Source: ICLARM estimates.
Note: Where a range from low to high is shown, the importance varies with the particular use.
resource it has to handle. Large freezer plants, like
large fishing vessels, are inappropriate if the resource
base is modest.
Markets affect the disposition of aquatic produc-
tion and, since they drive the economic value of
production, will also drive the use of resources. Mar-
ket demands are changing rapidly, whether the mar-
ket is a household that consumes the product of the
small-scale fisher or pond operator, the market in the
local village or nearest city, or the export market.
As small-scale producers sell more fish, the ef-
fects on producers' household nutrition should be
studied. In a review of studies on the effects of agri-
cultural commercialization on household nutrition,
Kennedy and Bouis (1993) show that increased in-
come does improve nutrition but usually at a slower
rate than expected. The studies concluded that health,
education, and sanitation programs were necessary
adjuncts if the family's nutrition and health were to
benefit fully from the extra income. Similar results
would likely be found for fishers' households. Also,
replacing fish with purchased grains in the diet may
lower intake of protein and trace elements (such as
vitamin A). In small-scale aquaculture, Gupta and
Rab (1994) showed that the introduction of fish farm-
ing in Bangladesh could both increase household food
supplies and provide a surplus for sale, thus helping
household nutrition and income.
Not only markets but also public opinion and
conservation status can dictate the use or protection
of some resources and the means by which they may
be caught. Marine mammals are now protected in
most countries, whales almost totally. Marine rep-
tiles (sea turtles, crocodiles, and sea snakes) are in-
creasingly protected, though crocodiles are proving
good for farming. Cambodia, for example, now has
120 crocodile farms. High seas drift netting is being
phased out after a concerted public campaign by
conservationists in the early 1990s. Some groups are
now calling for a complete global ban on trawling
Aquatic organisms may have alternative uses,
including a wider range of nonfood uses. Some non-
food uses have significant prospects for improving
national economic welfare, and a few may improve
household welfare for low-income people. Zilinskas
and Lundin (1993) reviewed how a range of simple
and high-powered marine biotechnologies could be
applied in developing countries subject to technical
manpower and technology requirements (Figure 12).
Alternative uses of the same resource often conflict
with each other. For example, several different fish-
ing operations compete for the limited shark re-
sources of the Maldives, along with tourism for
shark watching (Anderson and Ahmed 1993).
Employment prospects for various uses are
mixed and difficult to predict since they depend on
the scale of operations developed, the technologies
used, and the level of uptake. For example, one of the
most promising knowledge-based biotechnologies is
small-scale integrated aquaculture-agriculture. Such
enterprises may not produce large total numbers of
fish, but they could improve household food security
because farming systems and biodiversity studies
Figure 12-Gradient of marine biotechnology
indicate that more diverse, integrated farming sys-
tems lead to greater total productivity and stability
(Guo and Bradshaw 1993; Baskin 1994).
Resource Management. Natural fisheries resources
are classed as commons-they are not owned by
individual consumers but are shared by many, who
extract private goods from them. But there is a limit
to the goods that can be extracted, and the rate at
which goods are appropriated affects the rate at
which the resource can continue to produce its
goods. Coordination and restraint are required to
prevent individuals from exploiting the resource be-
yond sustainable limits and thus producing resource
scarcity (Oakerson 1992). Homer-Dixon, Boutwell,
and Rathjens (1993) recognize three causes of re-
source scarcity: change in resource levels, popula-
tion growth causing reduced per capital availability,
and unequal distribution that induces scarcity for
Many fisheries resource management arrange-
ments have not succeeded in coordinating and re-
straining use. They have not kept pace with the tech-
nological ability to exploit the resource or with the
driving incentives to exploit-economic returns,
population growth, food, and employment. Manage-
Characterizing selective genes
Biology expression systems
Cloning genes that
Triploid fish encode bioactive compounds
Elucidating chemical structures
Optimizing aquaculture Optimizing production by
production systems fermentation of metabolites
Isolating specific metabolites
Increasing Manpower and Equipment Demands
Source: Adapted from Zilinskas and Lundin 1993.
ment systems traditionally concentrated on fisheries
development and resource management but failed to
address the problems of economic efficiency, equity
in sharing the benefits of the catch (Emmerson
1980), and conflicts among different types of users.
Most systems have only belatedly recognized the
importance of resource users in the management
process, and few yet take the consumer into account.
A central cause of overexploitation in capture
fisheries is the lack of any restraint of access. Open
access often leads to resource overuse and economic
inefficiency. There has been some confusion be-
tween open access and common property manage-
ment since Hardin (1968) equated open access with
"the tragedy of the commons," thereby focusing on
the creation of individual property rights rather than
on limitation of access. More recently, Gibbs and
Bromley (1989) pointed out that common property
management where joint rights exist is a legitimate
form of management and can be successful if access
is controlled. In developed-country fisheries, the
attempt to limit access has led to schemes to limit the
number of fishers by regulated licensing and input
restrictions (such as constraints on gear, vessel size,
and days fished) and the creation of output restraints
such as quotas that may be granted or sold as quasi
private property (for example, individual transfer-
able quotas). Despite a high degree of regulation,
many developed-country fisheries are suffering
overexploitation, and there is increasing evidence of
poor compliance with management regulations.
Few of the usual input and output regulatory
measures are practical in small-scale fisheries in the
developing world. Even when access is restrained,
most fisheries still have excess numbers of fishers
who can claim legitimate access to the diminishing
resources. Many small-scale fishers also pursue
activities other than fishing, often in the agricultural
sector, but much more needs to be done to find other
activities for users. A recent World Bank study high-
lighted the lack of attention to managing an excess of
fishers and fishing units in overexploited fisheries
and drafted guidelines for a working group on alter-
native livelihoods for fishers (John 1994).
Equity is an important dimension of resource
access and exit from the fisheries sector. In the devel-
oping world, small-scale fishers frequently lose out to
industrial-scale operators favored by national govern-
ments because of their contributions to markets, ex-
ports, and the national economy. Weber (1994a) esti-
mated that small-scale fishers caught nearly as much
fish for human consumption as large and medium-
scale fleets. The issue of which groups of fishers get
or retain access should be examined from all angles-
equity, resource conservation, economic efficiency,
and cultural values. Some values, such as economic
efficiency, may have to be traded off for equity.
The failure to coordinate and restrain resource
use is clear from the increasing scarcity of resources
and the growing level of conflict over rights and
their distribution. Declines in the resource exacer-
bate conflicts among users from the local to the
international level (such as in the Philippines [Luna
1995] and in Asia [Richardson 1994]). Policymakers
thus need more ways of preventing and resolving
these conflicts before they escalate into civil vio-
lence. The early solution was to use scientific advice
on the state of the stock and institute national fisheries
management plans (Cushing 1988). Such solutions
offer only partial answers. Many are now suggesting
that conflicts can be diminished, management better
implemented, and resources therefore better man-
aged when user groups help develop resource man-
agement options through comanagement with state-
level authorities (Pinkerton 1989; Berkes, George,
and Preston 1991; Pomeroy 1994).
The path to better resource management is not
clear, however, and a global research project has
begun to investigate the application and potential of
comanagement practices in various resource and
sociopolitical settings (Pomeroy 1993). For example,
Kuperan and Abdullah (1994) examined Southeast
Asian countries and ranked the Philippines as most
likely to successfully adopt comanagement practices
and Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand as
having a moderate chance of successful adoption.
Over the last decade, the community has become
increasingly important in fisheries management in
most countries. Devolution and decentralization of
authority are formally giving local citizens groups a
greater voice and more responsibility. Decisions are
brought down to levels more appropriate to the func-
tioning of the resource and social systems. In some
systems, these actions may have been a belated recog-
nition of former tenure arrangements that were dis-
turbed when central governments first formulated
fisheries acts in the middle decades of this century. In
all cases, community involvement is happening at a
time of diminishing resources, and it is important that
users now get an opportunity to influence future op-
tions. A big question is whether these options will help
conserve and rebuild a degraded resource for future
generations or simply defuse the immediate conflict.
Coordination of fisheries with other sectors is
only now being recognized as vital to the future of
small-scale fishers and fisheries, although Emmerson
(1980) warned of its importance. Therefore, alterna-
tive livelihood projects that have started in countries
such as the Philippines could play a role in food
security for those fishers who remain as well as
helping some exit altogether and obviating the need
for others to enter.
Inland aquaculture faces its own resource man-
agement issues, especially concerning access rights.
Small-scale farmers with entitlement to their land
have greater security of tenure than capture fishers.
But the farmer must compete for scarce water re-
sources with agricultural, urban, and industrial users.
In many regions, rainfed supplies could suffice. Small
farmers in the developing world are a potentially vast
source of new entrants into integrated aquaculture-
agriculture in, for example, rice-growing parts of
Asia and large tracts of Africa.
In small-scale fish farming, even landless people
can find employment and some limited access to the
means of production in many cultures, often with the
help of socially conscious nongovernmental organi-
zations (NGOs). In Bangladesh, early results of stud-
ies into the feasibility of small pond fish culture by
functionally landless people were outstanding.
Groups of women and landless day laborers have
raised good crops and returned profits relative to the
small investment in inputs, using leased ponds, road-
side ditches, and rice paddies (Gupta and Rab 1994;
Coastal aquaculture will face severe competition
from other resource users for suitable sites and will
therefore experience some of the problems of com-
mon property resource management. The growing
concentration of large urban centers and populations
in the coastal zone reduces the quality of the environ-
ment and increases the competition for access (more
than half the world's population, and a greater propor-
tion in some regions, lives within 100 kilometers of
the sea). Like fishing, coastal aquaculture will have to
find its voice in integrated coastal zone management.
This is always easier for the larger, more intensive
enterprises such as intensive shrimp farming, which
rapidly took over many parts of coastal East Asia,
encouraged by large export market returns.
Intensification. Pinstrup-Andersen and Pandya-
Lorch (1994) have argued that agricultural intensifica-
tion, or greater production of food on present culti-
vated land, is essential to alleviate poverty. Terrestrial
environments are most commonly degraded by people
driven by poverty to overexploit natural resources.
Unlike their counterparts on the land, many living
aquatic resources were long protected from extensive
use and intensification by the difficulties of working at
sea. This protection was eroded drastically over the
last few decades by technological advances, including
the advent of industrial-scale fleets using new fishing
and fish-finding gear and the huge population explo-
sion of this century.
Now, in the case of capture fisheries, economic
incentives, technological developments, ignorance
of biological limits, and poverty all contribute to the
intensification of exploitation (that is, an increasing
and more effective fishing effort), which, up to the
limits of sustainable production, is the main means
for increasing production of these resources. Beyond
the sustainable limits, however, yields begin to fall
as the productive capacity of the resource declines
(see Figure 10). Users rapidly reach the limits of
sustainable exploitation not only with mechanization
and the deployment of industrial-scale fleets but also
when the number and capacity of small-scale fishers
are too great relative to the sustainable level of pro-
duction. The limits have frequently been exceeded in
fisheries because management action and scientific
knowledge have not been able to keep pace with the
rate at which exploitation intensifies.
The limits to intensification are inelastic in cap-
ture fisheries. Indeed, Pauly (1994a) has pointed out
that as long as the world still largely depends on
natural fisheries stocks, Malthusian concepts on the
relationship between resource levels and human needs
are relevant. Capture fisheries production is subject to
limited human control, consisting of management of
the quantity, size, and timing of the catch; minimiza-
tion of negative human effects on biological processes
(such as breeding, migration, and feeding) and the
environment; and, for certain species, enhancement of
wild stocks through reseeding. Incidental nutrient
enrichment of waters through pollution has apparently
enhanced fisheries production in some areas such as
the Mediterranean (Caddy 1993).
Paradoxically, production could be increased
from some capture fisheries by reducing the intensity
of exploitation to allow recovery of the resources or by
targeting the fishing of larger fish and thereby increas-
ing yield per recruit. Protection of some areas as re-
serves could enhance production in adjacent sites and
may stimulate higher total production.
Destructive fishing practices such as dynamite,
muro ami fishing (herding of fish into giant nets
while banging numerous rocks across the top of a
coral reef), and cyanide fishing are common exam-
ples of inappropriate intensification, driven by pov-
erty and leading to massive environmental degrada-
tion. McManus (1993) has described these
"Malthusian overfishing" practices and their effects
on coral reefs.
In short, intensification of exploitation of cap-
ture fisheries only yields greater production up to a
limit. To set and control fishing intensification
within the limits, managers need good scientific
knowledge of the stock status and carrying capacity
of the environment, appropriate management
schemes, and good monitoring and compliance
measures. Many of these conditions are not met for
the majority of small-scale fisheries.
Many forms of intensification hold considerable
promise for increasing aquaculture production. How-
ever, great care is needed. There are already examples
in both developed and developing countries of culture
practices that have intensified inappropriately and
caused severe environmental damage as a conse-
quence. In addition, some forms of aquaculture are
suffering one of the most common early effects of
intensification-chronic disease problems. Intensifi-
cation of shrimp (marine prawn) culture in several
Asian countries (China, Indonesia, the Philippines,
Taiwan, and Thailand) led to severe environmental
and disease problems resulting in production crashes
from which many sites have not yet recovered (see
Environment and aquaculture 1994). Inadequate sci-
entific knowledge of the consequences of many of the
farming practices, outbreaks of new and existing dis-
eases because of poor hygiene and quarantine, and
lack of control over pond effluent intakes and outlets
all contributed to irreversible crashes in production on
many farms, some after only two or three years of
production. Some, such as those in Taiwan, where
shrimp production fell from over 80,000 tons per year
in 1987 to very limited production in 1991, still have
not recovered (FAO 1992c).
Aquaculture production is governed by a similar
range of environmental, climatic, resource (space,
inputs, and labor), pest, disease, and technological
constraints as agricultural and livestock production.
However, land and suitable-quality water are in-
creasingly scarce; competition with other users for
suitable land, sites, and water will hamper increases
in aquaculture production. New culture technologies
and new ways of sustainably integrating aquaculture
with other land uses such as agriculture will be re-
quired to produce sustainable resource systems.
Two forms of production intensification com-
bine the techniques used in wild fisheries and
aquaculture. The first is stock enhancement, wherein
hatchery-reared or captured fry, larvae, or seeds are
placed into a natural environment to grow out and be
harvested later as wild stocks. The success of such
schemes, including the effects on the genetic diver-
sity of wild stocks, is still being debated (Hilborn
and Winton 1993; Munro 1994). The second form of
intensification involves growing out collected juve-
niles, especially of high-value species, in cages,
ponds, or racks and selling them in peak condition at
the top of the market. Both forms are suitable for
some low-input systems. The first method has been
pioneered successfully with giant clams in the Pa-
cific (Fitt 1993). Blacklip pearl oyster production in
the western Pacific relies on enhancement technol-
ogy (that is, collecting spat from the wild and grow-
ing them on special marine farms), partly to protect
the remnant wild stocks, which have not recovered
from overexploitation by foreign parties nearly a
century ago (South Pacific Commission 1994).
Integration. For too long fisheries and aquaculture
have been treated as sectors in isolation, a practice
that has ignored important linkages and externalities.
To anticipate the possible consequences of the cur-
rent transition, it is important to recognize the inte-
gral nature of fisheries resources and aquatic ecosys-
tems, natural or artificial; of aquatic and terrestrial
systems; of fishers and fish farmers in the economic,
cultural, and political fabric of their communities
and nations; and of the effects of climate and climate
change. Many fisheries problems and solutions to
those problems thus lie outside the sector, in overall
community and economic development (Smith
1979; Johnston 1992). Vertically integrating small-
scale fisheries development could escalate problems
by isolating the sector from others providing better
opportunities and by causing overinvestment in fish-
eries, which may lead to biological overfishing and
collapse of the whole sector (Emmerson 1980).
Researchers are beginning to address the need
for an integrated approach to management of aquatic
resources. The schema developed by Scura et al.
(1992) for integrated coastal zone management
shows the complexity of issues in one fisheries sys-
tem-the coastal zone (Figure 13). Integrated
coastal zone management addresses the goals of sus-
tainable development by seeking to maintain the
functional integrity of the resource system, reduce
conflicts over resource use, maintain the health of
the environment, and facilitate the progress of multi-
sectoral development (Chua 1993). Burbridge
(1994) stresses the need to maintain the functional
integrity of coastal ecosystems, referring specifi-
cally to hydrology, material flows, nutrient flows,
and energy. Wilson et al. (1994) conclude that sus-
tainable fisheries appear to require maintenance of
Figure 13-Integrated coastal zone management
to change behavior
Loss of habitat
Source: Scura et al. 1992.
all basic biological processes such as breeding, mi-
gration, and feeding.
In recent years, researchers have developed tools
such as coastal transects (Pauly and Lightfoot 1992),
geographic information systems and system analytical
models such as ECOPATH II (Christensen and Pauly
1993), and bioclimatic and fisheries oceanographic
modeling to study whole systems or parts of systems.
To date, however, research has concentrated only on
biophysical tools. Some countries, chiefly in the
developed world, are trying to operationalize multi-
species and ecosystem management concepts in fish-
eries resource management (Standing Committee on
Fisheries 1992; National Research Council 1994)
and scientific research (for example, Sherman,
Alexander, and Gold  examine the large ma-
rine ecosystem concept).
The biophysical and socioeconomic interconnec-
tions between fisheries and other sectors have only
recently received close attention. Therefore, it is too
early to see specifically how systems analysis and
systems thinking will improve the management of the
resources and their ultimate contribution to sustain-
able food security. Systems thinking is likely, how-
ever, to help identify the gaps in fundamental knowl-
edge that are key to the better functioning of the whole
system. Policy development, institutional linkages,
and communication among government agencies,
NGOs, and researchers at local, national, and interna-
tional levels should help improve decisionmaking.
National versus International Interests. More than
most other food commodities, aquatic resources gen-
erate tension between national and international
interests over issues such as trade; local and inter-
national market competition for fish; demands for
fisheries access by foreign fleets, including vessels
redeployed from overexploited fisheries in developed
countries; illegal cross-border fishing; and manage-
ment of shared stocks.
Removing excess fishing capacity from over-
fished stocks is a major national issue. One of the
most significant outcomes of the 1982 United Na-
tions Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
was the nationalization of fishing capacity, a process
that is continuing today, for example, in Indonesia
(McBeth 1994). With the exception of such fisheries
as the western Pacific tuna fishery, largely in the
exclusive economic zones of the Pacific island
states, fishing within the exclusive economic zones
is increasingly becoming the reserve of national
fleets often enlarged since declarations of exclusive
zones. Distant-water fishing countries are more re-
stricted in access than ever before. At the same time,
countries such as Japan have compensated by in-
creasing their imports. The experience of UNCLOS,
however, shows that many countries must greatly
strengthen their capacity for managing biological
resources. FAO (1993e) reviewed the effects of the
first 10 years of UNCLOS on fisheries and con-
cluded that the results were disappointing and could
not be expected to improve until countries practiced
better domestic fisheries management.
UNCLOS first provided some backing for ex-
tensive national ownership of aquatic resources.
Akin to UNCLOS, the 1993 International Conven-
tion on Biological Diversity (ICBD) strengthens na-
tional rights and increases national responsibilities.
It provides for national sovereignty over biological
resources while recognizing there is a "common
concern" for the conservation of biological diversity
(Glowka, Burhenne-Guilmin, and Synge 1994). It
calls for countries to link sustainable use and conser-
vation and to protect and encourage customary use
of biological resources. The ICBD's influence on the
use of living aquatic resources has yet to be tested.
Access to and exchange ofgermplasm for improving
aquaculture genetic resources will be an early issue.
The ICBD should stimulate better documentation of
aquatic biodiversity and interest in products such as
FishBase, a global database of information on fish
Trade is changing the patterns of consumption
offish. Like small-scale agricultural producers in the
developing world, fisheries and aquaculture produc-
ers are often significant consumers of their product.
Prices of fish on world markets are increasing as
supplies stagnate and demand increases through
population growth and rising incomes, particularly
in the developed and newly industrializing countries.
As prices of fish increase, more is being traded and
relatively less consumed by the producer. In addi-
tion, price rises make access to resources more desir-
able. Small-scale and artisanal fishers are most
likely to be marginalized under these conditions and
will thus not share in the benefits of increased com-
modity prices and will suffer nutritional and employ-
ment losses (Pauly 1994a).
The Contribution of Living
Aquatic Resources to Food
Security during the Transition
Sustainable food security is not achieved through
any single, simple solution but requires (1) a suffi-
cient, stable, predictable, and sustainable supply of
food; (2) access to food; and (3) nutritional ade-
quacy. Living aquatic resources can best help meet
each of these needs if countries go beyond fisheries
and aquaculture to capture much greater, more en-
during benefits from the use of the resources.
Stable, Sustainable, Predictable Supply
The contribution of living aquatic resources to food
supply is deteriorating as the gap between supply of
and demand for living aquatic resources grows. Sup-
ply is static at best, but demand continues to grow.
To prevent this situation from deteriorating further,
the resource base for production of living aquatic
resources must be kept in healthy, functioning order
through protection of the regenerative potential of
natural stocks; maintenance of high-quality, high-
diversity options for the genetic resource base for
aquaculture; and protection of the integrity of eco-
system functions in natural and artificial production
systems. Keeping aquatic ecosystems healthy means
improving environmental practices on adjacent land
and in watersheds. In addition, aquaculture produc-
tion must be greatly increased through a strong injec-
tion of research and development.
Good resource management may be achieved
with social cooperation, sound environmental stew-
ardship, and appropriate technological and natural
resource knowledge. Good management therefore
requires partnerships and clear definitions of the
interests and responsibilities of governments, resource
users, researchers, and the community, including users
of the commons.
Predicting the level of sustainable fish supply
requires much better knowledge of the fisheries re-
source base, the dynamics of aquatic ecosystems,
and the effects of climate, habitat degradation, and
pollution. Achieving this knowledge will take a large
coordinated effort but offers many benefits. Better
resource predictability will greatly improve resource
managers' capacity to manage and fishers' capacity
to target catching more efficiently. Research in this
area should therefore begin immediately.
None of the above can be achieved without con-
certed national and international management action
and increased investment in scientific research.
Planning should have started years ago for key re-
source systems. The urgency increases over time as
aquatic conditions deteriorate. Particular attention
should be given to those areas in the developing
world that are most dependent upon living aquatic
resources. Should these suffer collapses like that
seen in Canada's Grand Banks cod fishery, the con-
sequences will be catastrophic, for few governments
will be able to afford the type of assistance given by
the Canadian government.
Access to Food
Food security requires access to the means of food
production or to purchasing power through adequate
income. Despite increasing scarcity of supply, better
economic use of living aquatic resources could
greatly improve the purchasing power of low-
income users, provided they retain access to the re-
sources as values are improved. Access rights will
govern an individual's or community's rights to use
living aquatic resources in the best way to achieve
sustainable food security. The allocation of such
rights will have to satisfy multiple criteria, such as
equity, resource sustainability, and economic effi-
ciency, in an optimal way.
Governments should recognize that allocating
access rights becomes more difficult as the world's
fisheries resources diminish and more people wish
to use them. Authorities should be planning more
adjustment studies, alternative livelihoods for fish-
ers, and development projects in anticipation of
Small-scale fishers should be empowered
through a greater degree of organization, more say in
the way the resources are managed, greater access to
training to improve their skills, and alternative full-
or part-time livelihoods. The role of women in fish-
eries enterprises should be recognized and given
greater prominence, especially since they could have
an immediate effect on supply by improving post-
harvest quality. Women should be given increased
access to capital for aquaculture and small-scale
For low-income urban and rural fish consumers,
price will also determine access to the resource as
food. Minimizing the supply-demand gap and im-
proving the economic efficiency of production will
help producers get a fair price and consumers pay a
fair price. These factors will be countered and often
outweighed, however, by actions to improve the
value of products. On balance, the price of fish is
likely to keep rising.
Countries should encourage new entrants into
small-scale, low-input aquaculture, integrated
aquaculture-agriculture, and appropriate intensive
aquaculture to improve fish supplies and the many
other environmental services provided by on-farm
ponds and fish. Large policy steps and research
investments are required now to help realize the full
benefits of these technologies without causing envi-
The transition threatens nutrition in low-income
households. In developing countries where aquatic
products are currently important dietary items, the
supply and disposition of these products is a particu-
larly critical issue. Policymakers should initiate nu-
trition studies and establish health education pro-
grams now to ensure that as household fish supplies
diminish as a result of lower production or reduced
market purchases due to higher prices, they are re-
placed by other nutritious foods.
The growing supply-demand gap should be used
to stimulate greater efforts in postharvest quality
control and thus provide for better quality and quan-
tity of fish supplies.
Looking to 2020 and Beyond
The transition in living aquatic resources and their
use raises questions as to what the future might look
like in 25 years-that is, in the year 2020. The fol-
lowing is a first attempt at such a projection.
In 2020, production will rely less on natural stocks
and more on aquaculture and enhanced stocks but
not to the extent that the majority of production will
come from aquaculture.7 At least another 25 years
will be required to achieve that level. The challenge
is to maintain present or near-present levels of natu-
ral harvest while sustainably increasing aquaculture
7This study does not attempt a detailed assessment of likely global production. Such an assessment requires a serious modeling effort
based on assumptions about trajectories of various natural resources, the likely gains from aquaculture, and the trade-offs in resource
use. A landmark assessment for natural stocks was conducted 25 years ago by Gulland and others (Gulland 1970). ICLARM's 1992
Strategic Plan looked at potential increases in world fish catch in all regions and estimated that an increase of 25,700 tons was possible
under ideal management conditions and with full conservation of critical habitats, including coral reefs. No parallel assessments have
been attempted for aquaculture.
All present indications are that production by cap-
ture fisheries will be below its present level in 2020.
At best, it will maintain its present level. Gains from
better handling of catch, more use of bycatch, and the
exploitation of the few remaining underused stocks
will likely be at least offset by losses from poor man-
agement, protection of areas and species from fishing,
and decreased carrying capacity of the environment
through continuing environmental degradation. The
biggest unknowns concern the apparently cyclic rise
and fall of some of the largest fisheries stocks due
partly to ocean climate factors (such as El Niflo events
and other large-scale patterns): it is unclear which
existing fisheries will collapse and whether some
presently collapsed stocks will recover and to what
extent. Fisheries collapse may be sudden, as in the
case of the Peruvian anchoveta and the Grand Banks
cod stocks, or more gradual. Tropical multispecies,
demersal fisheries have not shown the same propen-
sity for sudden precipitous collapse as some of the
large temperate fisheries and fisheries for small pela-
gics. Under heavy fishing pressure, these tropical fish-
eries decline gradually though surely, their species
composition changing to favor smaller species lower
on the trophic scale. The end point is gradually de-
pleted stocks of less desirable species.
Asian countries will continue to dominate world
fisheries but only if they can control their major
environmental problems and better manage their
fisheries within the next 25 years. Asian artisanal
and subsistence fishers will be fewer in number but
will be given greater control of inshore and coral reef
fisheries in some countries. In others, the small-scale
commercial sector will dominate, using modern gear
and with its activities tightly controlled. Latin
American fisheries will become more commercial-
ized. African fisheries will be uneven in their devel-
opment, depending on the political stability of na-
tional governments, pressures from foreign fleets,
and the resilience of stocks. Greater coastal fisheries
development will occur in Africa but will be ham-
pered by growing coastal pollution and habitat de-
struction. The fisheries of the great lakes of Africa
will be subject to continuing large changes in species
composition and likely greater efforts to privatize
the control of resources.
In all regions, more fisheries will be enhanced
by the release of hatchery-reared seed. Coastal sites,
inland streams, dams, and reservoirs will be used to
By 2020, world aquaculture production will in-
crease but not at the rate needed to maintain the
present per capital supply of aquatic products to a
growing world population. Production will increase
sporadically through the introduction of new areas,
species, and practices and through increased produc-
tion from existing systems. In both inland and ma-
rine waters, however, other agricultural, industrial,
and urban activities will compete vigorously for
high-quality water, space, and other inputs such as
feed, fertilizers, labor, and capital.
Major setbacks will occur from time to time as a
result of disease, pollution, and poor management
practices. These problems can be prevented or over-
come through interventions such as research and
development, extension, monitoring, legislation, and
good quarantine practices.
An urgent injection of research and development
is required now to produce new technologies and
strains of species for aquaculture, to domesticate new
species, and to prevent environmental and disease
setbacks. The rate of progress will depend on develop-
ments in the research pipeline and on the time required
to produce new results and, through good early part-
nerships with farmers and industry, to translate these
results into viable practice. For example, genetic im-
provements in fast-growing species such as tilapias
still take at least 5 years to produce and 2 to 5 years to
disseminate safely onto farms. Genetic improvements
in longer-lived species will take much longer. Be-
tween 5 and 20 years are needed to domesticate new
species and bring them to market, depending on tech-
nical and socioeconomic factors.
In the developing world, Asia and Latin America
will make greater progress than Sub-Saharan Africa in
aquaculture. Sub-Saharan Africa will develop slowly
for some time to come. Small-scale integrated
aquaculture-agriculture will become more wide-
spread. Commercial, market-oriented aquaculture
will also develop in certain sites, such as near cities
and tourist destinations. A major development effort
that is sensitive to socioeconomic and cultural condi-
tions in the agriculture sector is required to increase
the practice of aquaculture in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Climate and climate variability will also be critical in
Sub-Saharan Africa, for many of the enterprises will
rely on rainfed ponds or relatively abundant irrigation
water. Low-input, integrated aquaculture-agriculture
offers the promise of sound and sustainable resource
management but requires a greater level of knowledge
than do traditional agricultural practices.
Some countries in the developed world are estab-
lishing intensive, high-capital, high-technology off-
shore aquaculture systems or onshore closed systems,
including complete recycling linked to other indus-
tries, such as the brewing and waste management
industries. These systems are being designed to over-
come the negative environmental side effects of
aquaculture as well as to help solve the environmental
problems of the other industries. The costs of inputs
are often high, and profitability depends on high mar-
ket prices for products.
In 5 to 15 years, many of the major carnivorous
aquatic species raised in aquaculture will be fed on
diets free or almost free of fish meal as nutrition
research develops digestible alternatives providing
the correct balance of amino acids and other dietary
essentials. These alternative feeds will not remove
all problems of feed supply, but they will at least
remove the dependence on other fish.
In 2020 genetic improvement, and probably ge-
netic engineering of aquatic organisms, will be well
advanced and will have provided some new strains of
species suited to common aquaculture conditions and
with desirable growth and market characteristics.
The Biological Resource Base
Capture fisheries and other human activities will
continue to degrade the diversity and abundance of
aquatic resources. This resource degradation will have
a negative effect not only on capture fisheries
production but also on the raw material for culture. In
aquaculture systems, more production will come from
fewer species as the knowledge of how to raise the
main species grows. However, some new species will
be brought into production and a wider range of strains
of existing aquaculture species will be developed.
Concern about the safety of introducing new
species and the national sovereignty provisions of
the International Convention on Biological Diversity
will slow the exchange of aquatic germplasm at least
until the turn of the century. By that time suitable
arrangements should have been negotiated to free up
access to germplasm more safely and equitably.
More conservation areas will exist than at pres-
ent, but the size and number of such areas will still
be below critical levels to protect major species,
biological and ecological functions, and habitat di-
versity. Too little is yet known to design adequate
aquatic systems of protected areas for conservation.
Key questions such as the location, size, and shape of
protected areas need serious scientific study.
The Geography of Production
The developing world will continue to lose out to the
developed world in fish consumption. As more cap-
ture fisheries become overexploited, total production
in the developing world will slow down. Exports
from the developing to the developed world will
continue to rise, and as the population of the devel-
oping world burgeons, fish will become even scarcer
for the poor of the developing world.
Suitable climate, water, space, capital, labor, and
know-how will dictate which parts of the world pro-
duce most by aquaculture. China's contribution
could plateau over the next few years. Bangladesh,
India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam,
and several Latin American countries will make big
gains by virtue of their agroecological endowments.
The Pacific Island countries and other island coun-
tries and areas in the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean,
and the Middle East will make great strides in cultur-
ing high-value invertebrate products such as giant
clams, sea cucumbers, pearl oysters, and trochus.
These products will be used and consumed in the
The Economics of World Fisheries
By 2020 greater economic rationality will prevail
in the world's capture fisheries, but the interim
25 years will be marked by many conflicts. The eco-
nomics of inputs (vessels, gear, and operating costs
including postharvest costs) will be better planned
than at present. In aquaculture, much attention will
go to driving down the costs of inputs and increasing
Fish is unlikely to ever return to being the
"poor man's protein." The prices of aquatic prod-
ucts will remain high, thus maintaining economic
incentives to exploit natural stocks, driving compe-
tition for access and rights, and stimulating the
development of aquaculture. High prices will con-
tinue to cause conflicts between aquaculture and
alternate land uses, especially agriculture. Aqua-
culture will also compete for fresh and salt water.
Because of the high capital needs of some inten-
sive aquaculture enterprises and the high price
of fish, aquaculture will be controlled by large in-
vestors and will outcompete other land uses.
Coastal shrimp ponds are being constructed on for-
mer coastal rice lands throughout humid Asian
regions. In the Philippines, shrimp ponds have re-
cently been exempted from the major agricultural
land reform program that seeks to transfer land to
Higher-value, including nonfood, uses of spe-
cies will diversify the markets and add further value
to many fisheries and aquaculture activities.
Supply, Demand, and World Trade
Aquatic products will continue to be heavily traded.
Producers in the developing world will eat less of
their own product, whether they harvest natural or
cultured stocks. The processing chain will become
more important and internationalized as a result of
the often conflicting demands for keeping costs down,
creating employment, maintaining product quality
and sanitary standards, and protecting human health.
Trade liberalization under the General Agree-
ment on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) will generate
trade wars and alternative forms of trade protection
such as those based on environmental and human
Supply will be increasingly controlled by com-
mercial market interests through private aquaculture
ventures and dictated by the needs of the market.
Governments and fishers cooperatives will have
The People in Fisheries andAquaculture
The next 25 years will see a large shift in the way
people participate in the production of living aquatic
resources. For the artisanal and small-scale sectors
and for rural people who relied on fish as a low-
priced source of protein and other nutrients, the
changes will be profound and may be largely nega-
tive. Deliberate interventions will be required to pre-
vent the worst consequences of dispossession and
Many fewer people will be dependent on capture
fisheries. Many will leave through natural attrition,
depletion of resources, and loss of access, which will
be limited and more controlled. Those who remain
will have greater control over the use of the re-
sources. New models of private appropriation will
apply to many resources. Comanagement models
involving community-based management will suc-
ceed in some cases (Pomeroy and Williams 1994).
Commercial fishers often will cede access to small-
scale artisanal fishers as the social, political, or
resource situation dictates. In other cases, fewer
commercial fishers operating more efficient gear
Many more people will participate in aquacul-
ture, although they will often be employed in capital-
intensive ventures. Small-scale farmers in Sub-
Saharan Africa and Asia will participate part time.
Technical extension programs related to aquacul-
ture will be more widespread than at present but
will often be provided by NGOs or the private
sector. In developing countries, the private sector
will be more developed than at present in terms of
hatcheries, buyers, equipment, and other input sup-
plies in much the same way that the agriculture
sector has now become increasingly privatized in
The Environment and Climate
Over the next 25 years, the aquatic environment will
feel increasing effects from terrestrial activities,
habitat alteration, and climate change.
Climate is one of the greatest unknowns con-
cerning capture fisheries, since even small shifts can
have critical effects on the species composition and
abundance of natural aquatic populations. Some spe-
cies and regions will be winners whereas others will
be losers. For example, a recent study showed that
a mean shoreline temperature increase of about
0.75 degrees Celsius between the 1930s and the 1990s
at one site in California benefited the fauna from
warmer climates (Barry et al. 1995). Climate and cli-
mate change will also influence aquaculture, but here,
just as with agriculture, some measure of adjustment
and control over production is possible, especially
given that climate prediction is improving rapidly.
In inland aquaculture, much greater attention
should be paid to incorporating climate factors into
production systems. Farm ponds themselves can act
as buffers against the harsh household impacts of
drought by producing fish and providing water for
other farm activities such as cultivation of crops.
Freshwater will become a critical issue for all
countries and peoples. The quantity, quality, and
disposition of freshwater will be increasingly altered
by direct use, pollution, construction of dams, drain-
ing of wetlands, irrigation, salinization and bio-
degradation through eutrophication, harmful algae
blooms, and introductions of alien species. Some
developed countries have shown that many forms of
pollution can be controlled with sufficient industrial
and political will and incentives. Will the developed
world take the even stronger action needed to halt
degradation, and will other countries such as the
newly industrializing countries of Asia and the
growing economies in Latin America and Africa
take measures before too much damage is done?
Marine, especially coastal, water is increasingly
affected by human activities, and these effects are
likely to increase, especially from nonpoint sources
such as sedimentation from land clearing. The
changes wrought will probably diminish the carry-
ing capacity for natural stocks of fish.
Rehabilitation of aquatic systems will receive
greater attention over the next 25 years as people
realize that unwanted changes have diminished their
environment. At first, remediation technologies
from the developed world will be applied in develop-
ing countries, but gradually new and more appropri-
ate ones will be developed.
The obvious limitations in the supply of aquatic
products will lead to a greater emphasis on better
postharvest use. Market forces will dictate the pro-
duction of convenience foods (for example, frozen
and breaded fish and surimi products) and novelty
products (such as rarer species). Convenience foods
will be generic and not specific, whereas novelty
products will tend to emphasize their origins, such as
Shanghai freshwater crabs. Greater use will be made
of byproducts (skin, bones, fine oils, and shells) and
bycatch or incidental species. Realizing these uses
will require investments in research.
How Can Research Contribute?
The changes in the status of aquatic resources, the
transition facing their users, and the outlook present
great challenges and opportunities for resource man-
agement research. Understanding the roles and his-
tory of recent aquatic resource research can help
researchers develop the most appropriate role for
Fisheries have large research needs relative to
the available research resources, especially in the
developing world. At this stage of the transition, the
right mix and sequence of fisheries research there-
fore must be selected carefully to help speed man-
agement applications to prevent further degradation
of the resource base and to begin to rebuild fisheries.
That fish stocks have declined and some have col-
lapsed despite scientific warnings shows that scien-
tific findings may not be applied in time to conserve
the resources if the social, political, and economic
circumstances are ignored. Social science research,
including policy research, could help managers and
users understand how to implement more timely
At the same time, large investments in aquacul-
ture research are required to spur development and to
ensure the sustainability of new practices.
The History ofAquatic Resource Research
To date, research for aquatic resource management
has consisted mainly of resource biology and stock
assessment, gear development, a small amount of
economic and social research, and some aquaculture
development research. These research inputs were
sufficient when resources were underexploited, hu-
man populations lower, aquaculture industries small
and nonintensive, and the environment in better
shape. They no longer suffice.8
Fisheries science has been dominated by bio-
logical sciences since it grew out of nineteenth-
century marine biology (Cushing 1988; Pauly
1994b; Smith 1994). Much of fisheries science in
this century has been devoted to assessments of fish
stocks and their potential productivity. The greatest
gains were achieved after World War II as fishing
technology and mathematics combined to provide
powerful field sampling and analytical tools with
which to assess stocks. Smith (1994) argues, how-
ever, that fisheries science adopted too narrow an
approach, concentrating on fish stocks and paying
too little attention to ecology and economics.
Knowledge of the biophysical environment of
world fisheries is still in its infancy. Direct observa-
tion and measurement of stocks are hampered by the
aquatic environment, which tends to produce a
greater degree of unpredictability than the terrestrial
environment in the abundance and distribution of
resources (Gulland 1986). Some speculate whether
the systems are chaotic or complex, but either case
causes problems of predictability (Wilson et al.
1994). In addition, oceanographic (biological,
chemical, and physical) and climate knowledge is
only now approaching a degree of utility for fisheries
science, thanks to the many internationally coordi-
nated research programs of the last two decades.
8Professional meetings of fisheries scientists are signaling the need for new approaches to resource management and science. The
1994 annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society discussed the need for a "paradigm shift" in fisheries science for management.
The 1994 Annual Science Conference of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (established in 1902 among the north
Atlantic nations) for the first time held extended sessions entitled "Improving the Link between Fisheries Science and Management:
Biological, Social, and Economic Considerations." Several papers revealed the failures of management and sometimes science for
management in significant fisheries such as those of the European Union and Atlantic Canada.
Assessments are often thwarted by a lack of good
data. Many fish stocks have gone from a stage of early
development to overexploitation before sufficient in-
formation could be collected for sustainable manage-
ment. Tropical and developing-country resources al-
most universally lack the long history of data required
by most advanced fishery assessments.9 Fisheries data
are difficult and expensive to collect, especially for
artisanal and small-scale fisheries. Thus even with
proper commitment, most countries face an enormous
task in building up even the most rudimentary data-
base for hundreds of species captured by many differ-
ent gears in rapidly developing fisheries responding to
increasing demands from growing populations and
markets. The data collections must also tap traditional
In many cases all over the world, scientific
advice on safe exploitation levels is not imple-
mented adequately because countries lack political
will and effective management policy instruments
and because social and economic factors intervene.
In other cases, information on the resilience of
different stocks to exploitation is inadequate (Mace
and Sissenwine 1993). Indeed, biologists are only
now converging on a consensus about what consti-
tutes a key biological reference point for sustain-
able fisheries resources, namely, a level of spawn-
ing that will prevent recruitment decline over time
(Sissenwine and Shepherd 1987; FAO 1993f; Myers
and Barrowman 1994).1o
Research has yet to answer many other ques-
tions as well. There is considerable debate over the
inadequacy of management on a stock-by-stock ba-
sis, the need for fisheries ecosystem management,
and the possibility of naturally induced decadal pat-
terns of change in the composition of species assem-
blages. The effects of climate and climate change on
fisheries resources have received some attention and,
though likely to be profound, will require much
more research to permit prediction (Parslow and
Jernakoff 1992; Laevastu 1993).
Fisheries social science (economics and sociol-
ogy) developed much more recently than fisheries
biological science and has only recently gained
attention in the developing world (see Charles et al.
1993 for a review). Fisheries anthropology has had a
small but mainly descriptive place in fisheries social
science. Since the challenges facing fisheries and
aquaculture are social and economic as well as bio-
logical, these disciplines must receive greater promi-
nence in future. ICLARM was one of the first
organizations to include social sciences (economics,
sociology, and anthropology) in multidisciplinary
research on fisheries systems (Smith and Pauly
1983); many other research institutions are now con-
sidering the need for multidisciplinary work.
Another new tool of key importance to assisting
natural resource managers is policy research. Policy
research can both inform and shed light on the process
of policy development, drawing lessons and leading to
new models. Such research has had profound effects
on national governments in fields such as agriculture
and is starting to have an effect in the developed world
on fisheries and aquaculture.
Four Roles for Aquatic Resource Research
Research can play at least four roles in assisting
natural resource management. First, it can produce
basic knowledge on which strategic and applied
studies draw. Thus, fish taxonomy, the fundamentals
of biodiversity research, economic market theory,
trophic dynamics of ponds, and the sociology of
village systems may be relevant to fisheries manage-
ment and aquaculture research. The main users of
the results of basic research are other researchers
and, depending on the topic, the general public.
Second, research can identify issues and their im-
plications. Thus, scientific studies may assess the
status of an exploited stock; social science research
may reveal problems in the distribution of benefits
from the catch; marine biology may reveal the shift
in species composition of an important marine eco-
system; and environmental research may reveal un-
acceptable pollution levels in waters used for aquacul-
ture. The main users of this research are policymakers,
9Fisheries science developed to serve the longest-established, industrial-scale fisheries such as those in the north Atlantic Ocean,
exploited continuously over centuries by European and North American fleets. These fisheries are based on resources that are far less
diverse than those exploited in most of the (tropical) developing world. In recognition of the huge challenges facing tropical fisheries
stock assessments, ICLARM developed a strategic research program in tropical fish stock assessment. This program has been
continuous since 1979 and has had a strong impact on method development, software development, and training throughout the
developing and developed world; for a summary, see ICLARM 1994.
10In fisheries science, "recruitment" refers to entry of young fish to the fishery. It occurs when individuals reach a size or age at which
they become vulnerable to harvest.
fisheries managers, fishers and fish farmers, and other
researchers. The results of this research should be
conveyed in a way that clearly explains their meaning
and consequences. Researchers should have a holistic
understanding of the situation and should understand
that their findings will not always lead to action. Ehrlich
and Dailey (1993) and Caldwell (1990) point out that
a special mix of social conditions is required before
science is acted upon.
Third, research can help resolve conflict. Should
this fishery be managed as a single stock or as sepa-
rate substocks? What is the risk of stock collapse if
catches are increased? How will limiting access to
the use of the resource affect coastal communities?
Will larger mesh sizes for nets protect the small fish?
Research can help resolve these questions or concen-
trate the disagreements on issues where value judg-
ments have to be made. Results from research into
these questions must be delivered quickly and in a
well-targeted form to help resolve the conflict. Users
will be those involved in the conflict or their repre-
sentatives on committees and negotiating parties.
Fourth, research can produce new solutions and
options. Fisheries production has become more
productive and efficient with the development of
new gear, fishing grounds, vessels, and postharvest
technologies. Fisheries social science introduced
the concepts of limited entry and individual trans-
ferable quotas to fisheries management in the de-
veloped world. Aquaculture production is now en-
tering a period of technical development including
new selectively bred strains of species, new hatch-
ery and husbandry technologies, and new feeds. In
the future, scientific studies will suggest new fish-
eries management policy instruments, forms of
aquatic environment protection and remediation,
and ways of integrating fish and other resource
production systems. This role is usually used when
no immediate conflict exists or after a period of
conflict when the parties have entered into a phase
of seeking settlement or options. Social scientists
are gaining opportunities to study and recommend
new processes in fisheries management after all
parties acknowledge the resource and economic
issues, and management and communities sit down
together to find new solutions (see, for example,
Luna 1995 for a case from the Philippines). The
users of this type of research are predominantly
fishers and farmers but also include fisheries man-
agers and other policymakers.
Will science be as successful in assisting sustain-
able fisheries management and aquaculture develop-
ment as it has been in increasing fisheries production
and recommending sustainable catch levels? The an-
swer should be yes, provided all four roles are used,
research is well targeted to needs through close inter-
action between researchers and users, and the appro-
priate mix of social and physical science applies.
The utility of research in fisheries resource man-
agement has recently been debated in the scientific
literature and at major international conferences.
Ludwig, Hilborn, and Walters (1993) argue that sus-
tainable fisheries management is unattainable, as
demonstrated by many failures to prevent overuse.
They challenge the prospects for achieving scientific
consensus over sustainable levels of fisheries re-
source use and point out that even if achieved, the
results of scientific consensus are often not acted on,
thus leading to overuse. They doubt that science and
technology can provide answers to resource or con-
servation problems, although they promote adaptive
Others argue that science can make a valuable
contribution to fisheries resources management.
Rosenberg et al. (1993) hold that sustainable re-
source use is a legitimate concept and, although chal-
lenging, is soundly based in scientific resource dy-
namics theory and is achievable. They illustrate their
arguments with examples of successes and failures.
They agree with the above authors that many of the
failures occurred despite scientific consensus be-
cause managers failed to act. They describe new
developments in which science further assists man-
agers by assessing risks in the face of uncertainty.
Ehrlich and Dailey (1993) describe and support the
use of science to perceive natural resource problems,
understand their mechanisms, and strategically
assess options for their solution.
Strategic Research for Living Aquatic
National and international research programs for
living aquatic resources need to be reshaped based
on the strategic context outlined here-that is, the
imperatives of the transition facing aquatic resource
users. The most appropriate model for research for
living aquatic resources management is what Roussel,
Saadand, and Erickson (1991) described as "third
generation R & D": research and development that
responds to both existing and future needs while
contributing to the identification and exploitation of
new opportunities and new solutions (Table 5).
Research agencies must overcome the difficulty
of raising research funds by considering all costs and
benefits (not just financial ones), priorities, and the
Table 5-Third generation research
and development model for natural resource management
Management and strategic context
Technology/R & D strategy
Targeting of R & D
Measurement of results
Evaluation of progress
Has holistic strategic framework consisting of the CGIARa
vision for food security and the present transition in aquatic
Relies on partnership of all actors.
Breaks the isolation of R & D.
Integrates technology/R & D and natural resource management
Combines R & D and resource management insights.
Varies with donor/national/local sources, depending on how
benefits are likely to be distributed.
Based on balance of priorities and the risks and rewards of a
successful research outcome.
Has defined, consistent natural resource management and
Based on costs/benefits and contribution to strategic objectives.
Performed against natural resource management objectives and
Occurs regularly and when external events and internal
Source: Adapted from Roussel, Saadand, and Erickson 1991, Figures 3 and 4.
aConsultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
likely contribution to sustainable food security. In
convincing funders of the need to support research,
agencies must stress its multiple roles and many
Given the growing gap between supply and de-
mand of living aquatic resources, research must be
increasingly anticipatory. Research must look forward
to the consequences of present actions or outcomes,
guard against negative effects and protect options,
foresee and attempt to satisfy future demands, and
time itself to maximize its chances of being useful.
Garcia (1992) and Smith (1994) argue that
throughout its history, fisheries research both bene-
fited and suffered from its close ties to fisheries
management agendas, which are driven by short-
term questions. These dictates have generated re-
search opportunities, resources (research is neces-
sarily expensive when work at sea is involved), and
questions but have caused frequent changes in re-
search direction and not permitted resolution of fun-
damental, longer-term problems such as the link be-
tween fish recruitment and spawner abundance. The
same situation will inevitably be the way of the
future, making living aquatic resource management
research extremely challenging and making strategic
research directions difficult to maintain.
Research agencies studying living aquatic re-
sources should use two principal strategies when de-
vising their future programs: (1) breaking down the
isolation of aquatic resource research and develop-
ment from its uses, and (2) fully using the four roles of
research. These strategies will require that more total
resources be devoted to aquatic resource research.
Strategy 1: Break the Isolation ofResearch. Living
aquatic resource research must be constantly in
touch with the systems within which its work will be
used. Such systems include aquatic resource, coastal
zone, and water management systems, as well as
agriculture. Aquatic resource issues need to be
linked with terrestrial resource issues to achieve
broad progress toward food security. Integrated sys-
tems thinking is already having an effect on research
methodology for aquatic resources, but more re-
mains to be done.
Researchers are finally starting to break the iso-
lation between themselves and the fishers and farm-
ers to whom much of the research is targeted. In the
future, research agencies will work more often with
NGOs that help fishers and farmers groups acquire
the skills, social organization, and capital to benefit
from new technologies. The early successes of par-
ticipatory research and NGO involvement offer les-
sons that should be drawn out.
National and international research systems
must be strengthened if they are to support national
sovereign responsibilities for aquatic resource man-
agement. Strengthening these research systems will
require greater networking, training, regional co-
operation, and collaborative research.
The barriers between researchers, between insti-
tutes, and between research disciplines must be bro-
ken down. Fisheries and aquaculture research needs to
draw on oceanography, hydrology, sedimentology,
climate, marine biology, forestry, irrigation, and gen-
eral agricultural policy research. Access to knowledge
and research resources rather than sole ownership of
the research resources (facilities) will be the way of
the future. Networks of information and research col-
laboration will become more common. South-South
and North-South linkages can speed access of agen-
cies to the latest scientific findings and methods.
Biological research in fisheries and aquaculture
is integrating with other biological research at the
molecular level, particularly in genetic identification
of stocks and genetic diversity, research on the aging
of fish, and studies of basic biological processes.
Strategy 2: Use the Four Roles ofResearch. Recog-
nizing that research fulfills different roles-it gener-
ates knowledge, identifies issues and implications,
helps resolve conflicts, and provides solutions and
new options-offers the opportunity to develop and
exploit its full potential to help food security. Some-
times researchers need to alert national and interna-
tional agencies on management and policy issues for
living aquatic resources and project the role research
can play. At other times they will be reacting to
needs identified by others.
If they break the isolation of research, re-
searchers have a greater chance of getting their mes-
sages across to those that will use them and of under-
standing the needs research can address. They can
therefore play a part in resolving a conflict, study the
implications of a policy change, develop new ways
to manage fisheries resources, or enhance farm
Nowhere is this more important than in the devel-
oping world fisheries. The aquatic transition in the
developed world has received global attention (one
example is the collapse of the Grand Banks cod fish-
ery), but little attention has gone to events in the
developing world. Researchers now should be work-
ing to analyze, anticipate, and highlight transitional
events and their likely effects in the developing world.
The Enabling Means: More Resources for Aquatic
Research. Aquatic resource research has long strug-
gled for attention against more visible priorities on
the land. The resources, and therefore research and
management needs, have tended to be "underwater,"
out of sight and out of mind. But as aquatic environ-
ments and their biota begin to show the global effects
of terrestrial and atmospheric insults as well as of
direct use, the need for aquatic resource research is
becoming more visible.
A number of factors point to the need for a
heightened emphasis on aquatic resource research in
the developing world. These include the low level of
present knowledge; the number of low-income peo-
ple who depend on the resources; the urgent need for
viable policy options for better resource manage-
ment; the increasing value of the resources and the
effects of rising prices on the resource poor; the
potential for aquaculture to make a larger contribu-
tion to food security, but only provided it is environ-
mentally sustainable; and the need to identify and
intervene quickly to remediate the status of aquatic
resources that are degraded because they are down-
stream from other social and environmental systems.
Fisheries and aquaculture products represent the
fifth largest agricultural commodity in the world. In
large parts of the developing world, fisheries prod-
ucts are major contributors to food security, and this
contribution is now the one most seriously threat-
ened. Not only grain production but all sources of
food, income, and livelihood must be protected as
There is no easy formula for setting aquatic re-
source research levels. Much aquatic resource re-
search is more expensive than terrestrial equivalents,
especially when it involves working at sea or with
ponds and tanks. Much of the research is not amena-
ble to standard economic cost-benefit analysis,
which is most suited to research in its fourth role.
New methods of analysis are required. A recent Aus-
tralian study on fisheries research concluded that
"evaluating alternate research projects . may be
difficult because of inadequate information on many
fisheries and sometimes the need to undertake a
number of research projects to produce the desired
output" (Lal, Holland, and Collins 1994).
When allocating scarce research resources,
many developing countries choose to emphasize
aquaculture technology rather than fisheries (for ex-
ample, see Davy 1993), probably since the impact of
the former is usually clearer. This allocation occurs
even though the majority of production still comes
from capture fisheries, about which too little is yet
known. Managers of fisheries and coastal resources
therefore lack the information that would allow them
to manage these resources sustainably.
It could be argued that returns from research are
less certain in fisheries than in other fields. This uncer-
tainty, however, is a result of the present low level of
knowledge of complex aquatic systems. Much of the
existing knowledge has only been gained in recent
decades and lags behind the knowledge base for most
terrestrial systems. Aquatic resource management in
ignorance is not a viable solution to food insecurity.
A profound and dramatic change is occurring in the
living aquatic resource systems of the globe, and this
change will cause a transition for those who depend
on and use the resources. Many people are aware of
the transition, but little has been done to anticipate or
minimize its consequences. The future state of af-
fairs is likely to be much different from the present.
In both the developing and the developed world,
action must start now to achieve the best outcome for
food security. The goals must be better protection of
aquatic systems and the best possible use of the living
resources. Many interventions will be required. Of
these, research can and must play a vital role, for the
best possible outcomes cannot be anticipated without
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Meryl Williams is director general of the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources
Management in Manila, the Philippines.
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