ANALYSIS - Consumption of fish around the world appears to be growing and at the same time major concerns have been brought forward about the sustainability of the catches from the seas and the ability of the world to produce enough fish to meet a growing demand, writes Editor in Chief, Chris Harris.
Figures from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations show that while the amount of catch fish on the market grew from the 1950s to 2000, but not the amount has flattened out as sustainability of stock has been brought into question.
To meet the growing demand there has been a rise in the amount of fish produced from aquaculture that is being consumed.
Currently global fish consumption is 94.6 million tonnes of catch fish per year compared to 62.9 million tonnes of fish and seafood from aquaculture.
Consumption of fish and seafood globally in the 1970s was around 12kg per person per year. Now that figure stands at between 17kg and 18kg.
While the amount of fish produced from aquaculture is rising, the total consumption of fish is rising but the global population is rising and the number of people eating fish is rising.
To meet this rising demand, the common perception is that there will be a growth in the amount of fish produced through aquaculture. But this demand for fish could shortly reach 200 million tonnes, just to meet the demand in the developed world.
However, according to Dr Martin Jaffa from Callendar McDowell, speaking at Aquaculture UK 2012, while demand is rising, demand is also affected by price.
The current growth in demand for fish and seafood has followed a slump in consumption that was produced by high prices recently, so that the present rise is just recapturing markets that were lost.
He said that the Scottish salmon industry, for example, is growing and could soon be back to production figures seen in 2003. The industry in Scotland, however, is also facing competition from a growing Norwegian and Chilean industry.
Much of the salmon produced in Scotland goes for export - 96,000 tonnes last year compared to 78,000 tonnes in 2010. At the same time the UK is importing more salmon - 36,653 tonnes in 201 compared to 23,168 tonnes in 2010, while consumption in the UK is actually staying flat.
While the common perception is that more fish is being eaten in the UK, consumption is actually falling slightly and the reason for the decline is that the major consumers of fish are older people.
This decline has been recorded in many developed nations - France, US and even Japan. where consumption fell from 89lbs per head in 2001 to 76lbs per head in 2005.
While the consumers of the most fish are in the 50 to 60 year old age range, the younger under 45s are not eating fish.
This is because they usually have growing families and they cannot afford the price of fish.
However, Dr Jaffa said that another part of the reason could be that the older consumer is used to buying fish from an independent retailer and the younger consumer is more used to shopping in supermarkets.
While some of these supermarkets have serve-over counters, the way that fish and fish products are presented to the consumer do not capture the needs of the young consumer.
The major reasons why younger people do not eat fish are because they do not like the smell, they do not like the bones and fins and more importantly they do not know how to cook it.
According to Dr Jaffa, 70 per cent of Japanese housewives do not cook fish.
He said that in order to capture the younger market the industry needs to look to the needs of these consumers, otherwise it will be supplying an aging and dying section of the population.
Dr Jaffa said that the industry needs to look at ready to cook products and ready meals that present convenience and they also need to be products that are affordable.
He called on the industry to look at the market and what it needs rather than looking at production methods for securing the consumers of the future.