©Getty Images
©Getty Images

Fish prices float to record highs

Market is caught between a growth in demand and environmental concerns over overfishing

China’s annual three-month fishing ban came into force at the start of April, a moratorium now covering three of the country’s largest rivers and vast swathes of the South China Sea, including contested territories.

The bans have been happening since 1995, as the government aims to protect dwindling fish stocks and biodiversity, and have slowly increased to cover more water. This year the Yellow River has been added in the ban. One estimate expects the ban could increase fish prices in China by a fifth on average.

Internationally, the price of fish has increased steadily as consumption grows. Seafood now contributes 15% of the average animal protein consumption for 3 billion people, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and the organisation’s fish price index was up 10 points in August 2017, compared to the same month in 2016.

Fish demand is closely tied to economic prosperity and as incomes increase in Latin America, Africa and Asia, so do fish prices, FAO said.

Aquaculture has increased to meet some of this demand and could become the primary source of fish globally within five years. But despite an increase in fish production, more than 30% of global fisheries have been pushed beyond their biological limits, the WWF has said, putting at risk billions of people who rely on fish for protein or as a source of income. Some species, such as the Atlantic bluefin tuna are now under threat of survival. 

Closer to home the picture is brighter. Last year North Sea cod stocks were deemed sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a non-profit organisation, a success of “collaborative, cross-industry efforts”. But with uncertainty over regulations and quotas post Brexit, even the future of these stocks is not guaranteed.

Price of fish table

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