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The seafood economy

Processing clams from Ben Tre fishery, Vietnam. Processing clams from Ben Tre fishery, Vietnam. © Kyle Cathie 

Millions of people work in the seafood industry, contributing to local, regional and global trade on a massive scale and maintaining jobs. It's not just about fishing. Seafood-related jobs include processing, packing, transport, retail and restaurants. Through these diverse businesses, the seafood economy generates financial security for individuals and a valuable source of GDP.

The value of the global seafood industry

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) 2016 report:

  • The export value of world trade in fish was US$148 billion in 2014.
    For developing countries fishery net-export value is higher than that of rice, coffee, sugar and tea combined. 

  • 12% of the world's population rely on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods. 

  • In 2014, 54% of seafood exports came from developing countries.

  • Fish exports are a valuable source of foreign exchange for many developing countries, which export more than they import. 

High demand

Consumer demand for fish continues to climb, especially in affluent nations, which in 2014 imported 63% (by value) of all fish imports that year.

Global consumption of seafood increased by 21% between 1992 and 2002. But levels of fish catches in the wild have remained roughly stable since the mid-1990s, close to 90-93 million tonnes annually. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says there is little chance of any significant increase beyond these levels.

And it’s not just about seafood; fish is an ingredient in pet food, health supplements, fishmeal and many non-food products manufactured on a global scale.

The UN predicts another 2 billion people will join the world’s population within 20 years. Add to this the surge in consumption that is expected as the world’s emerging economies develop and expand, and it is clear that pressure on seafood resources will increase.

Sustainable fisheries set for success 

With pressure on seafood resources set to increase further, fisheries that are poorly managed may quickly collapse. We will need fisheries that are well-managed and sustainable, especially given the uncertainties and implications of global climate change.

The MSC works with partners to transform the world's seafood markets and promote and reward sustainable fishing practices. You can support sustainable fishing by looking for the MSC ecolabel. 

Find out where to buy MSC-labelled sustainable seafood > 

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