Aquaculture Magazine

April / May 2015

World and U.S. Demand and Supply Relationships for Seafood: Implications for Aquaculture Producers

The previous Aquaculture Economics, Management and Marketing columns discussed various aspects of aquaculture profitability. There are four main ways to increase profitability of aquaculture businesses: increase production, decrease cost, maintain or increase market price, and expand market demand for aquaculture products. This column discusses global supply and demand for seafood products, and explores possible ways to expand markets for aquaculture products. 

*Madan M Dey 

Seafood (broadly defined as living aquatic resources, including finfish, mollusks and crustaceans) plays a major role in human nutrition in various parts of the world. Demand for seafood is likely to increase due to population and income growth, urbanization and dietary changes. According to two recent projections (OECD-FAO, 2013; and World Bank, 2013), demand for seafood will expand substantially over the next two to three decades. Total global consumption of seafood is expected to increase from 111,697 thousand metric tons in 2006 to 151,771 thousand metric tons in 2030; an approximately 36% increase during this period (World Bank 2013). Among the various regions, seafood consumption is expected to grow rapidly in China, India, and other South Asian countries (Figure 1). Aside from the high population base, these regions will have highest projected income growth. Between 2010 and 2030, per-capita income in China and India is expected to almost triple and double, respectively. The seafood market in North America (United States of America and Canada), which represented around 7.3% of global fish consumption in 2006, is projected to grow by 34% during the 2010-2030 period.

The increased demand for seafood will have to be met by increased aquaculture production. The increase in capture production is expected to be limited due to the overexploitation of numerous fish stocks. The global production from capture fisheries likely will be stable around 93 million metric tons during the 2010-2030 period, but aquaculture is projected to expand substantially. According to the World Bank (2013), the total fish supply is expected to increase from 154 million metric tons in 2011 to 186 million metric tons in 2030 and aquaculture will supply over 60% of fish destined for direct human consumption by 2030. Due to the rapid expansion of freshwater aquaculture, the most rapid expansion of supply is expected for tilapia, carp, pangasius, and other catfish. Production of tilapia is projected to more than double between 2008 and 2030. Global supply of some high-value species (shrimp, salmon, and eel and sturgeon) is expected to grow by 50-60% over the period.

The projected expansion of seafood production and consumption is not uniform across various countries and regions.  International trade will continue to play a vital role in balancing the supply and demand for seafood in various countries. International seafood trade is expected to increase substantially over the years. According to the World Bank (2013), the total global seafood trade is likely to increase from 12,258 thousand metric tons in 2006 to 17,756 thousand metric tons in 2030, with a 40% increase during 2010-2030. China will increase its influence in the global seafood market, and is likely to account for 37% of total fish production and for 38% of global consumption of foodfish in 2030 (World Bank, 2013). A number of South and Southeast Asian countries have increased their aquaculture supply to meet internal consumption needs, as well as the growing foodfish demand of China. North America, Europe and Central Asia, Japan, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Middle East and North Africa regions are expected to remain strong net importers of seafood. North America will likely increase net imports of seafood from 2,405 thousand metric tons in 2006 to 5,464 thousand metric tons in 2030; with about a 90% increase in net import during 2010 to 2030. 

World prices for all fish and fish products will increase during the next two decades or so. The growth rate of the price of captured fish is expected to be higher than that of cultured. In particular, higher price increases are expected for species that are used for fishmeal and fish oil. According to World Bank (2013) projections, real prices of fishmeal and fish oil are expected to rise by 90% and 70%, respectively, during the 2010-2030 period.  

Due to rapidly expanding global fish demand and relatively stable capture fisheries, aquaculture will continue to fill the growing supply-demand gap, but at a growth rate less than its peak of 11% per annum during the 1980s. Therefore, appropriate technical progress and enabling policy environments are necessary for successful and sustainable development of global aquaculture. Though the United States of America has a relatively small aquaculture sector with only a few species being cultivated (catfish, Atlantic salmon, crawfish, oysters, clams, etc.), it is a leader in aquaculture research, especially in the areas of aqua-feed and farming technology. The U.S. aquaculture industry has many options to expand markets for its high quality aquaculture products both domestically and internationally. It is important to note that elasticity of demand for seafood is income elastic (that is, one percent increase in income leads to more than one percent increase in demand), and consumers in high income-growth countries (including China) are looking for quality seafood products. There are also many opportunities in niche markets for U.S. aquaculture products.


OECD–FAO. 2013. OECD–FAO Agricultural Outlook 2013-2022. OECD Publishing and FAO. (also available at

World Bank. 2013. Fish to 2030: prospects for fisheries and aquaculture. Agriculture and environmental services discussion paper; no. 3. Washington DC; World Bank Group.


Madan M. Dey is a Professor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and formerly Regional Director and Senior Economist for the WorldFish Center.  

We are pleased to have him sitting in as a guest columnist for Dr. Carole Engle.

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