Many species of fish are consumed as food in virtually all regions around the world. Fish has been an important source of protein and other nutrients for humans throughout history.
English does not have a special culinary name for food prepared from these animals, as it does with pig vs. pork, and as does Spanish pescado vs. pez. In culinary and fishery contexts, fish may include shellfish, such as molluscs, crustaceans and echinoderms; more expansively, seafood covers both fish and other marine life used as food.
Since 1961, the average annual increase in global apparent food fish consumption (3.2 percent) has outpaced population growth (1.6 percent) and exceeded consumption of meat from all terrestrial animals, combined (2.8 percent) and individually (bovine, ovine, pig, other), except poultry (4.9 percent). In per capita terms, food fish consumption has grown from 9.0 kg in 1961 to 20.2 kg in 2015, at an average rate of about 1.5 percent per year. The expansion in consumption has been driven not only by increased production, but also by a combination of many other factors, including reduced wastage, better utilization, improved distribution channels and growing demand, linked with population growth, rising incomes and urbanization.
Europe, Japan and the United States of America together accounted for 47 percent of the world’s total food fish consumption in 1961 but only about 20 percent in 2015. Of the global total of 149 million tonnes in 2015, Asia consumed more than two-thirds (106 million tonnes at 24.0 kg per capita). Oceania and Africa consumed the lowest share. The shift is the result of structural changes in the sector and in particular the growing role of Asian countries in fish production, as well as a significant gap between the economic growth rates of the world’s more mature fish markets and those of many increasingly important emerging markets around the world, particularly in Asia.