Although there are a variety of uses for fisheries resources, the most common is as a source of food. Fisheries resources are now producing a record quantity of food and other benefits for humanity. The proportion of global fish production used for direct human consumption rose during the 1990s from 71 percent in 1990 to 76 percent by 2002. Consumption of fresh fish grew significantly during the 1990s, complemented by a decline in demand for canned fish.
Fish not used for direct human consumption is reduced to fishmeal and oil. Fishmeal is used as feed, mainly for pigs and chickens, although carnivorous aquatic species such as salmon, shrimp and bream (less than 10% of world aquaculture production) also consume fishmeal.
Fish represents a valuable source of proteins and nutrients in the diet of many countries and its importance in contributing to food security is rising significantly. The total food supply available from fisheries in live weight terms is estimated to be slightly higher than 16 kilos per year for each of the world's inhabitants. This figure has more than doubled since 1950 (at about 7 kilos per capita) as production has kept pace with population growth. These figures need to be viewed with some caution as they do not represent individual consumption, which can only accurately be assessed in countries where food consumption surveys have been carried out.
Post-harvest handling, processing and transportation of fish require particular care in order to ensure proper quality and safety. Retaining the nutritional value of the fish, preserving the benefits of its rich composition and avoiding costly and debilitating effects of fish-borne illnesses are vital.