The Top 5 most important seafood species in the world

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Which fish and shellfish are the foundation for seafood dining around the world?

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Global fisheries and aquaculture production totaled 158 million tons in 2012 – around 10 million tons more than 2010.  The rapid expansion of aquaculture, including the activities of small-scale farmers is driving this growth in production. The renewed focus on the so-called “blue world” comes as the share of fisheries production used by humans for food has increased from about 70% in the 1980s to a record high of more than 85% (136 million tons) in 2012. At the same time per capita fish consumption has soared from 10 kilograms in the 1960s to more than 19 kilograms in 2012.

But which species are the most important to fish lovers around the world? Below are the five most important seafood species worldwide, according to the editors of Seafood International. These species represent the foundation of seafood dining around the world and their production volumes are testament to their continued popularity.


anchoviesMuch of the feed used in aquaculture to raise salmon and other fish is derived in large part from Peruvian anchovy, or anchoveta. Other small “feeder” fish are also used, but Anchoveta production is the largest by far. A significant, but declining, proportion of world fisheries production is processed into fishmeal for high-protein feed and fish oil, as a feed additive in aquaculture and also for fish oil supplements. This decrease has been only partly offset by a growing share of fishmeal production obtained from fishery byproducts and other sources. There is no denying the importance of anchoveta in the global seafood supply, even if it isn’t used directly for human consumption.


bigeye_tunaPerhaps more popular than it ever has been, tuna is a dominant species in the seafood culinary landscape. Not only does it provide millions (if not billions) of cans of value-priced seafood to consumers around the world, but it also is a key species in sushi restaurants, which have seen tremendous growth around the world in the last decade. Catches of tuna and tuna-like species set a new record of more than 7 million tons in 2012, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


sfishrimpback-smallYou would be hard pressed to go anywhere in the world and not find shrimp being sold. Shrimp farmers produced and estimated 3 million metric tons in 2012, while wild-fisheries production reached  a new record of 3.4 million tons. Shrimp continues to be the largest single commodity in value terms, accounting for about 15 percent of the total value of internationally traded fishery products in 2012, the FAO reports.



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In 2012, global production of Alaska pollock exceeded 3.2 million metric tons. The fish is the backbone of fish and chips, fish sticks and other breaded fish portions popular around the world in both restaurants and supermarkets. Largely supplied by the United States and Russia, the fish is attractive because of its pricing, availability and sustainability credentials.

Tilapia and Salmon

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We have a tie between tilapia and salmon. Both of these aquaculture success stories deserve a place on our list. The popularity of each on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves is undeniable.

Salmon’s share — both wild and farmed — in world fishery trade has increased strongly in recent decades to 14 percent thanks to expansion of salmon and trout aquaculture production in northern Europe and in North and South America. Approximately 60% of the world’s salmon production is farmed, according to the Global Salmon Initiative. In 2012, more than 4.2 million metric tons of tilapia were produced. The fish has become a favorite of health-conscious consumers looking for low-fat, high protein seafood.



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