The Indian Ocean region is rapidly emerging as an essential crossroads linking the world’s major producers and consumers of natural resources. Today, more than two-thirds of the world’s oil passes through the region’s waters, while Australia, Indonesia, and South Africa now account for more than half of global coal exports, shipping much of their product across the Indian Ocean to India, China, Japan, and South Korea, the world’s top importers. In the coming decades, however, the natural riches beneath the sea will be as crucial to securing the region’s future welfare as the commercial wealth travelling over the ocean waves.
The Indian Ocean’s living resources represent one of the region’s most significant assets. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), catches from Indian Ocean marine capture fisheries have soared from less than 900,000 tonnes in 1950 to 11.3 million tonnes in 2010, about 14.6 percent of the world catch. Aquaculture – farming fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals in captivity – has expanded equally rapidly, growing twelve-fold globally since 1980. In 2010, six Indian Ocean nations – India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Egypt, and Myanmar – counted among the top ten producers worldwide, supplying over 11.3 million tonnes of fish between them, as much as all the region’s capture fisheries combined.
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