The FAO will unveil the first ever global database on farmed aquatic resources by the end of 2021. The AquaGRIS (Aquatic Genetic Resource Information) database will be available free online. It will cover over 600 farmed aquatic species as well as the vast array of strains, hybrids, and varieties found in aquaculture systems worldwide.
AquaGRIS targets five principal users: aquaculture producers (growers and hatcheries); policymakers; state resource managers; regional and international organisations; and conservation managers. The interface will allow users to generate customised reports organised by country, species, or issue area. The conservation status of species will also be available. Globally standardised terminology and descriptions will ensure cross-border consistency and comparability.
An AquaGRIS prototype was already released in October 2021. It listed information such as non-native aquaculture species, introduced farmed types, and the risks and controls related to their international transfer and use. The final database will be based on the prototype and is currently awaiting administrative approval to go online.
The AquaGRIS dataset draws on multiple sources. The most important has been the national focal points (NFPs) for Aquatic Genetic Resources, individuals designated to collect information on aquatic resources within their respective FAO member countries. Once live, the database will allow anyone to submit information. All data will be validated by NFPs before being uploaded.
AquaGRIS follows up on recommendations in the 2019 FAO report ‘State of the World’s Aquatic Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture’, the first ever global assessment of living aquatic resources. The database aims to improve monitoring and information on aquatic species, a key action area identified by the report.
The AquaGRIS initiative is a key plank in FAO efforts to foster sustainable development alongside aquatic conservation. With wild capture now stabilised at around 90-95 million tonnes per year and fish consumption projected to reach 181 million tonnes by 2030, aquaculture will become essential in meeting global nutritional needs.
Assessing and monitoring aquatic diversity is crucial for making aquaculture sustainable and resilient. Aquaculture systems founded on a wide genetic base will be better able to withstand the effects of climate change, diseases, and parasites. Genetic diversity is fundamental for the improvement of farmed species since effective breeding programmes depend on ready access to a wide pool of traits.