The Outlook for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Americas: A Perspective on Latin America and the Caribbean

Fisheries and aquaculture

  • aquaculture
    Annual growth of aquaculture in LAC (volume)
  • fish
    Chile is the main aquaculture producer in LAC
  • consumption of fish
    Kg/capita/yr is the average consumption of fish in LAC (12 Kg/capita/yr is the recommended amount)
  • Production of food by aquaculture-fisheries continue to grow in the region at a higher rate than in other parts of the world, primarily due to aquaculture growth, thanks to the  large availability of areas with potential for expansion that exist in the region.

  • The continuing demand for fish and seafood will be the main driver for the expansion of these activities in the region. It is important to promote policies for the development of these activities, primarily for the development of small producers as a way to maximize the social benefits of an economy based in the use of national waters, referred to as a blue economy.

  • Even though fisheries and aquaculture are recognized as an important pillar for the food and nutritional security of thousands of communities living in the coastal and in the vast hydrological basins in Central and South America, there is still a need to recognize and give priority to the development of their full potential in the national development agendas.

  • It is important that each country identify the best institutional arrangements that are needed to strengthen the development of fisheries and aquaculture, strengthening their position in political decision making process and prioritizing their development within the national agendas. It the organic position of fisheries and aquaculture is not change within the national political agendas, the countries will continue to waste opportunities derived from their development.

Summary of: Fisheries and aquaculture

Fisheries and aquaculture production in Latin America is growing at an above-average rate compared to other regions of the world. This trend is being driven primarily by aquaculture, since the region has the largest area in the world with potential for aquaculture expansion.

Regional aquaculture is maintaining a steady expansion rate of over 6% in terms of volume, driven by an increase in the production of species traditionally important at an industrial level (salmon in Chile and tilapia in Central America, mainly in Honduras and Costa Rica). The production of cultivated shrimp, however, has not followed this trend, as demonstrated by its low prices in international markets as a result of the global economic slowdown and an excess of inventories.

Various emerging species, whose production volumes have increased, are gaining ground in markets. Some examples are the Peruvian scallop and some Amazonian species (paiche, surubí and pintado) in Brazil. The gradual consolidation of technology for cultivating these species has stimulated greater investment and the expansion of fishing areas.

On the other hand, production by capture fisheries has exhibited a downward trend in recent years, after achieving maximum production levels in the late 1990s. This trend has been influenced by a significant reduction in the Peruvian anchovy catch, one of the most important fisheries, which fell primarily as a result of climate-related effects. Other marine fisheries such as the Chilean jack mackerel, have also shown a contraction in volume, which has forced regulatory authorities to enforce a low catch quota.

Other fisheries, such as lobster in the Caribbean region and shrimp in the Atlantic region (Mexico, Central America and Colombia) have remained stable, with a ban in all countries on incorporating new fishing boats; this has also been the case for prawns in Argentina.

Production volumes for inland fishing (lakes, ponds and rivers) have, for the most part, increased; however, some important basins such as the Colombian Orinoquía region have experienced drastic reductions. Fishing in these ecosystems continues to be the basis of food security for thousands of families, many of whom are indigenous peoples. Given the broad geographic dispersion of these communities, it is highly likely that official data available significantly underestimates both production and the number of fishermen who depend on this activity in the region.

Both the fisheries and aquaculture subsectors face common challenges in the immediate future, such as the negative effects of climate change and weak institutional frameworks. Illegal fishing and overfishing, in particular, continue to threaten the sustainability of fishery resources, while high prices for production inputs remain a constraint for aquaculture.

The sustained increase in the global demand for fishery and aquaculture products will continue to drive aquaculture expansion in the region; as a result, it is important to promote policies that support small-scale producers, in order to maximize the social benefits of an economy based on national waters, referred to as a blue economy.