Aquaculture has a key role to play in addressing food and nutrition security, sustainable economic development, marine resource management, and health issues in Commonwealth countries.
Each year, the cultivation of aquatic fish and plants– generates about half of all fish consumed in the world. In 2015, aquaculture generated 76.6 million tonnes of fish, worth roughly US$157.9 billion at first sale, along with 29.4 million tonnes of plants (US$ 4.8 billion) and 41 thousand tonnes of non-food products such as pearls and shells, valued at US$ 208.2 million. Fish remains a major source of protein for humans, and aquaculture produces an average of 10kg of fish per person each year.
The Commonwealth Blue Charter recognises the importance of managing marine resources effectively. Aquaculture, when practiced sustainably and responsibly, can help supply nutritious food for an ever-increasing global population, possibly easing the strain on global fish stocks, while also creating jobs and improving people’s well-being. The sector is critical to fulfilling Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #14 of the 2030 Agenda: to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. It is also linked to several other SDG’s, including #1 (No Poverty), #2 (Zero Hunger), #3 (Good Health and Well-Being), and #8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), amongst others.
Notwithstanding the positive effects aquaculture can have, there are also serious environmental risks and challenges that must be managed carefully, including those related to disease outbreaks, coastal degradation, and unsustainable feeding practices.
Five Commonwealth countries (India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nigeria and the United Kingdom) sit amongst the top 25 producers of farmed species in the world. Asia (specifically China) dominates global aquaculture production, but developing countries such as Papua New Guinea in the Pacific and Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and Ghana in Sub-Saharan Africa have advanced as significant producers in their regions.
Cyprus, which has practiced aquaculture for nearly half a century, has stepped forward as the Commonwealth Blue Charter Champion on aquaculture, offering its expertise in developing sector-wide policies driven by sustainable development, protection of the marine environment, and an emphasis on quality and hygiene of aquaculture products.