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Fish drying on Ngapali beach in Gyeiktaw, Myanmar, by WorldFish / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Aquaculture supply chain

Last week we heard about the growth and impacts of aquaculture in Southeast Asia. In this article we look more closely at aquaculture and fisheries of the region.

Fish and seafood are the most significant sources of animal protein in Asian diets. The global demand for fish and seafood has risen dramatically in recent decades, resulting in overfishing of most wild fish stocks. This has contributed to a dramatic rise of aquaculture, which is now the fastest-growing food production sector in the world. Aquaculture’s share of total world fish production is increasing significantly compared with wild (capture) fisheries, as you can see in this table.

World fish production - World Resources Institute World fish production: aquaculture and wild capture (World Resources Institute, 2013).

Aquaculture now provides about half of the global fish supply, with production reaching an all-time high in 2012, valued at US$144 billion. The growth in aquaculture is skyrocketing, especially in Asia and the Pacific – in 2010 the region produced about 53 million tonnes of aquaculture products. This made up a staggering 89% of global aquaculture production, representing 80% of the total value of global aquaculture.

Demand for fish and seafood is rising, and this trend is expected to continue. To meet the projected demand, aquaculture production would need to more than double by 2050. Therefore, it is critical that environmentally sustainable practices are developed and embedded in the aquaculture sector now.

As in rice value chains, there are a variety of actors and activities involved in aquaculture and the seafood industry more broadly. In Week 4 we will learn more about the different food-based livelihoods in Southeast Asia. But for now, consider the image below, showing the seafood supply chain. As you can imagine, there are sustainability and impact issues associated with every step in the chain.

Seafood supply chain - Fish2.0 Seafood supply chain summary - Fish 2.0 (Manta Consulting Inc. 2013). © 2014 Manta Consulting. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


This figure differs somewhat from our conceptual framework of food system activities for example it adds technology as the first step in the chain. In the comment box below, tell us how important you think technology is for achieving more sustainable food systems. Please explain why.

For more information on aquaculture, we recommend you watch this TEDTalk by Mike Velings, who makes his own argument for the need for sustainable practices in aquaculture.


UNEP (2016). Food Systems and Natural Resources. A Report of the Working Group on Food Systems of the International Resource Panel. Westhoek, H, Ingram J., Van Berkum, S., Özay, L., and Hajer M.

Ranganathan, J. (2013). The Global Food Challenge Explained in 18 Graphics. WRI blog. World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.

Image Source: “Fish drying on Ngapali beach in Gyeiktaw, Myanmar” by WorldFish / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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This article is from the free online course:

Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

Stockholm Environment Institute