The aquaculture industry has been growing rapidly, with an average growth rate of 6.7% per year between 1990 and 2020, with fish produced by aquaculture nearly equalling the amount of capture fish. In 2020, global production of aquatic animals reached 88 million tonnes, according to the 2022 FAO - SOFIA report.

It is thought that developing countries will drive major changes and the expansion in fisheries and aquaculture production, its trade and consumption. The global growth in fish production will be driven by an increase in aquaculture output since the amount of capture fish is generally static. 

In 2020, aquaculture accounted for 49 percent of the total aquatic animals production, while capture fisheries contributed 51% (2022 FAO - SOFIA report). FAO’s outlook for fisheries and aquaculture to 2030 projects an increase in production, consumption and trade, albeit at slower growth rates. Sustained growth of aquaculture is projected to reach 106 million tonnes in 2030. 

Fish Farm

The graph below, from the FAO SOFIA report (2022), illustrates the world fisheries and aquaculture production. 


(Source: FAO - 2022 SOFIA report)

Regional breakdown

The FAO states that production of farmed fish is dominated by Asia (89% of the global total in volume terms in the last 20 years). Chile, China and Norway are the top producers in the Americas, Asia and Europe. All three experienced growth in 2020 (SOFIA report, 2022).

The table below shows the global distribution of aquaculture production by region (SOFIA report, 2022):

aquaculture production - main players

Aquaculture feed

Fishmeal and fish oil are important ingredients in aquaculture feed. As stated in FAO's 2022 SOFIA report (p77), "fishmeal and fish oil are still considered the most nutritious and most digestible ingredients for farmed fish, as well as the major source of omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA])." 

The production of fishmeal is about 5 million tonnes each year. A growing share of fishmeal and fish oil is being produced from fish by-products: "The expansion of processing of fisheries and aquaculture production has resulted in increasing quantities of by-products, which may represent up to 70 percent of processed fish, depending on the size, species and type of processing.[...] Heads, frames, fillet cut-offs, belly flaps and parts of the viscera such as liver and roe are particularly good sources of nutrients such as long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, D and B12, as well as minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus and selenium." (FAO's 2022 SOFIA report, page 79). 

According to IFFO, in 2021, 30 percent of the global production of fishmeal and 51 percent of the total production of fish oil were obtained from by-products.

Aquaculture production will be able to expand because of improved efficiency in the use of fishmeal and its specialised uses.

Information on fishmeal and its use in aquaculture can be found in the articles below:

Fishmeal and Fish Oil and its role in Sustainable Aquaculture Publication: Andrew Jackson, International Aquafeed, 2012, September/October, p18-21
How much whole fish does aquaculture consume? (Only in Spanish) Publication: Andrew Jackson and Francisco Aldon, InfoPesca International, 2012, 49, p24 - 27
Is Fishmeal for Aquaculture Sustainable? Publication: Andrew Jackson, IFFO versus Willie McKenzie, Greenpeace, The Longliner, Issue 3, p10
Connections between farmed and wild fish: Fishmeal and fish oil as ingredients in sustainable aquaculture Publication: Andrew Jackson and Jonathan Shepherd, Advancing the aquaculture Agenda: Workshop Proceedings, 2010, p 331 - 343
Fishmeal, Fish oil - Prime feed ingredients not limiting factors for responsible aquaculture Publication: Andrew Jackson, Global Aquaculture Advocate, 2010, January/February, p14-17
The continuing demand for sustainable Fishmeal and Fish oil in aquaculture diets Publication: Andrew Jackson, International Aquafeed, 2009, September/October, p 28 - 32
European Aquaculture Society - Fish In - Fish Out Ratios explained Publication: Andrew Jackson, Aquaculture Europe, 2009, Vol 34 (3), p5 - 10
How much fish to produce 1 Kg of salmon?- Fish In - Fish Out (FIFO) Ratios explained Publication: Andrew Jackson, Aquaculture Europe, 2009, Vol 34 (3), p 5 - 10
Fishmeal "still best" Publication: Andrew Jackson, Fish Farming International, 2008, September, p 32-33
Fishmeal and fish oil - will they limit the development of aquaculture? Publication: Andrew Jackson, Feed Technology Update, 2007, Vol 2, Issue 1
The importance of Fishmeal and Fish oil in aquaculture diets Publication: Andrew Jackson, International Aquafeed, 2006, November/December, p16 - 19
Protein Supply Balance FIN document 2007
Effect of Different Dietary Protein and Oil Levels in Diet on Growth of Tilapia Comparison of Aquaculture Grade (South American) and Locally Produced Fish Meals. Research Report 1998-9
The role of fishmeal in diets for salmonids Technical Bulletin TB24 1990
The role of fish oil in feeds for farmed fish Technical Bulletin TB25 1990