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Sustainable seafood surging, but not everywhere: report
by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) May 11, 2016

Demand for sustainable seafood has allowed the market for certified fish and shellfish to burgeon, but the world's biggest seafood producer Asia is lagging far behind, a report said Wednesday.

Last year, 23 million metric tonnes of seafood certified as sustainable was sold worldwide to the tune of $11.5 billion (10 billion euros), accounting for 14 percent of global production, according to a study published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

That marks a dramatic rise from just a decade earlier, when only 500,000 metric tonnes, or 0.5 percent of the global seafood production, was considered sustainable, the Canadian non-profit research group said.

To qualify as sustainable, seafood must either be caught in the wild or farmed in a manner that helps sustain the species harvested and the well-being of the oceans, as well as the communities that depend on fishing for their livelihoods.

Wednesday's report, which studied the performance of the nine most common sustainability certification schemes, including Marine Stewardship Council and Friends of the Sea, showed that certified seafood production grew 35 percent annually over the past decade -- nearly 10 times faster than conventional seafood production over the same period.

- 'Significant investment' -

That spells good news in a world where 88 percent of fish stocks are already being fully exploited or overexploited.

"The rapid expansion of sustainable seafood practices is helping to address decades of mismanagement, which has led to the collapse of fisheries and destruction of fragile marine ecosystems," lead report author Jason Potts said in a statement.

In 2014, the overall trade value of the global seafood sector was estimated at $140 billion, making it one of the most valuable non-petroleum products traded internationally, IISD pointed out.

And around 10-12 percent of the global population relies directly or indirectly on the seafood industry for their livelihoods, it said.

While farmed fish could help relieve the burden on wild fish stocks, it has also faced sustainability issues, and has in places been accused of destroying ecosystems due to feed and waste management.

Currently, 80 percent of certified seafood is caught in the wild, but certification of farmed seafood is expanding rapidly, the report showed.

Demand for certified seafood is meanwhile driven almost exclusively by Japan, North America and Europe, with manufacturers and retailers serving these markets accounting for most of the production.

At the same time, Asia, which accounts for 69 percent of global seafood production, produces just 11 percent of all certified seafood, Wednesday's report said.

This shows the financial benefits of certification have so far been very unevenly distributed, it warned, insisting government action and "significant investment" would be needed to expand certification in Asia and Africa especially.

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