Eating seafood is something that is pretty common for most households around the world. Although consumption can vary widely based on the specific region or location of a household, overall fish consumption has been rising rapidly over the last 50 years.
The average amount of fish that is consumed per person, per year in the world today is 16.4 kg.
This average amount is not a uniform reflection of what people actually eat. China has accounted for a majority of the growth seen in the world averages as their production of fish increased by 14% in the last decade alone. If the amount of seafood coming out of China was excluded from the world’s supply, there would be less fish available for consumption then what was consumed in the 1980’s.
Three Fast Facts About Fish Consumption
1. In 2011, US fishermen landed over 10 billion pounds of seafood with a total value of more than $5 billion.
2. The top commercial fishing port is Dutch Harbor, Alaska which is the location of Discovery Channel’s series Deadliest Catch.
3. Recreational fishermen took an estimated 69 million fishing trips in 2011 and caught 345 million fish, of which a majority of them were released back into the food chain.
Takeaway: Fish consumption is increasing around the world because it is one of the least expensive commodities that can be purchased in most locations. Whether the seafood is caught in the wild or responsibly farmed, the difference in price for protein products that are animal based can be quite substantial in some regions. If this trend continues, seafood will soon begin to outpace traditional animal proteins that are consumed, like beef and pork, because consumers will end up receiving more value for their money.
It’s An Import Food
1. The United States consumed 4.7 billion pounds of seafood in 2011, making the country second only to China for the amount that was eaten.
2. About 91% of the seafood that was consumed in the US in 2011 was imported, up from 86% the previous year.
3. The most popular type of fish that is consumed in the United States is tuna, but in the canned variety.
4. The most popular fish consumed in a fresh or frozen fillet form is Tilapia.
5. In Dutch Harbor, AK 706 million pounds of seafood were caught in the last recorded year.
6. The pollock fishery in Alaska resulted in 864 million pounds of fish caught in 2011, making it one of the most valuable and most efficiently run fisheries in the entire world.
7. Fish protein makes up about 20% of the total protein intake of households in developing countries, while it makes up less than 8% in developed nations.
Takeaway: What is interesting about fish consumption is that a lot of the seafood caught in the United States must first be exported in order for it to be properly processed. The fish is then imported back into the US so that consumers can purchase the product. How much money could be saved if processing could occur on US shores? Would this affect fish consumption rates in the US and the rest of the world since there would be fewer transportation surcharges involved in the end consumer price? The different in protein intake is also important to note because people who eat fewer calories daily get more of their protein from fish than those who eat 2,500 calories or more per day on average.
The Future of Fish Consumption
1. The estimated world supply of marine fish is currently 8.9 million tons.
2. The estimated supply of freshwater fish that is suitable for human consumption is estimated to be 47 million tons.
3. Asian regions are expected to consume 70% of available process fish that is ready for consumption in 2014.
4. By 2030, it is estimated that 62% of the fish that the world eats will be raised in seafood farms.
5. China is expected to consume 38% of the world’s food fish while producing 37% of the fish that is suitable for human consumption.
6. The total supply and consumption of fish has grown at a rate of 3.6% per year since 1961, outpacing population growth of 1.8% per year.
7. 20% of the world receives 20% of their total calories every day from fish.
Takeaway: Because fish consumption is 30% higher in countries that are more affluent, the turning point of how this industry is approached is right now. There are two ways the future of fish consumption can turn out: affluent countries can price poorer countries out of the seafood market to reserve the increased production of farmed fish for themselves or poor countries will become more competitive because farmed fishing can drive down the prices of fish and seafood because the supply is greater than the demand. Which one will win out? A lot of that looks to depend on what kind of profits those who are farming and commercially fishing this protein staple are able to obtain.
What About Right Now?
1. Some island-based households are estimated to receive 50% of their total animal protein from fish and fish products.
2. The total contribution of fish to the world’s protein consumption has declined by more than 1% over the last decade.
3. Fresh fish is better received in virtually every worldwide market over processed fish.
4. As international transportation methods quicken and packing methods are improved, there has been a corresponding increase in the amount of imported fresh fish that has been consumed.
Takeaway: Right now, fish is a minority protein in every household diet around the world except for some limited households in island nations and in Southeast Asia. Has sustainable farming and better transportation methods develop, this is likely to change the dynamic of fish consumption to make it become a higher priority around the world. When that happens, it could change the way all animal proteins are priced for the market in a good… or a bad way.