Fish are playing a growing role in feeding the world, according to a new UN report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), with fish farming driving the growth in production. Global production from fish farms achieved a record high of more than 90 million tonnes in 2012, says the UN, in a statement trumpeting the role of aquaculture. In the wake of population growth and demand for food, fish farming, it says, holds “tremendous promise”.
In my view, there is a lot of hype around the ability of farmed fish to feed the world; sadly, the reality is often very different. The farming of carnivorous species, like salmon and trout, relies on large amounts of wild fish as feed. It takes between three and five tonnes of wild fish to produce just one tonne of wild fish. That’s an awful lot of waste.
Giving the report its due, the FAO warns that global fish farming needs to become “less dependent on wild fish for feed” if it is to be sustainable; something I completely agree with. In Peru writing for Farmageddon, I’ve seen the devastation wreaked on seabird populations and other wildlife due to unsustainable fishing of Peruvian Anchovies, described by The Guardian as the “world’s most popular” fish. They are being scooped up in vast quantities and ground down for fishmeal, then exported to factory farms in Europe and China, be they for fish, chickens or pigs.
Fish farms are the forgotten factory farms of the water. Unfortunately, the huge quantities of fish hoovered up for fishmeal are the forgotten victims of the factory farm regime. About a quarter of the global fish catch never reaches a human mouth, instead much of it destined as industrial animal feed. If we stopped feeding fish to farm animals and treating hard-pressed seas as a source of ‘cheap’ feed for factory farms, then we could alleviate the serious pressure on our over-fished oceans.
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