Feeding Wild Fish To Farmed Fish Is Crippling The Seas, Says Report

The report reviews the latest scientific research on the impact of reduction fisheries and the lack of transparency and sustainability in the aquafeed sector
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The new report highlights the issues of aquaculture (Photo: Compassion In World Farming)

The use of wild fish as feed for farmed fish is causing huge environmental and social damage, according to a new report

Until the seas run dry: how industrial aquaculture is plundering the oceans, shows how millions of tons of fish are being harvested from the wild every year to produce fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO) - which are key ingredients in feed for farmed fish.

This is threatening food security and risking a collapse of marine life, says the report published by the Changing Markets Foundation, campaign group Feedback, and Compassion in World Farming, which 'reviews the latest scientific research on the impact of reduction fisheries (where wild fish are turned into FMFO), and the lack of transparency and sustainability in the aquafeed sector'.

'Grave concerns'

The report highlights 'grave concerns' around the impacts using FMFO in aquaculture feed has on both environmental and human rights, and calls for an end to this practice.

"Aquaculture is the world's fastest growing food production sector, and the FAO projects it will provide 60 percent of the world's fish consumption by 2030, growing significantly from its current share of just over 50 percent," says the report.

"Paradoxically, the industry is heavily reliant on wild-caught fish with over 69 percent of fishmeal and 75 percent of fish oil production used to feed farmed fish. The global fishmeal market was worth approximately US$6 billion (€5.3 billion) in 2017 and is forecast to reach US$10 billion (€8.9 billion) by 2027."

It adds that the multi-billion euro aquaculture feed industry is not only having an impact on food security and the marine environment but is driving overfishing, illegal fishing, and human rights abuses in wild fishery operations.

Compassion In World Farming highlights the issues of fishing in its new campaign Rethink. Fish

'Urgent action is required'

"Aquaculture has been hailed as delivering affordable, healthy protein, as well as diverting pressure from overfished wild-capture fish stocks," Natasha Hurley, Campaign Manager at the Changing markets Foundation, said. "This report finds the industry is failing to deliver on this promise as a result of its continued reliance on wild-caught fish.

"Urgent action is required to increase transparency and sustainability in the aquafeed industry’s supply chain, and to wean it completely off its reliance on fish caught in the wild."

"It is clear that the aquaculture industry's 'business as usual' approach to fishmeal and oil is dangerously depleting ocean resources and threatening the integrity of marine ecosystems.The industry is seeking sustainable protein alternatives, but not fast enough to avert potentially catastrophic consequences for ocean health and food security," added Carina Millstone, Executive Director of Feedback.

There are major animal welfare implications when it comes to consuming fish

Animal welfare

And there are additional factors to consider, as Dr. Krzysztof Wojtas, Head of Fish Policy at Compassion in World Farming, points out.

"When considering the negative consequences of using wild-caught fish for FMFO, we must not overlook the huge impact that these industries have on animal welfare," Dr. Wojtas said.

"As industrial aquaculture grows, the number of animals suffering in these intensive farming systems multiplies and brings in another hidden layer.

"Most people are not aware of the additional suffering of hundreds of billions of small fish that die horribly on huge industrial fishing vessels in order to fuel these underwater factory farms. The industry must urgently address this crisis."

Compassion In World Farming's Rethink. Fish campaign shares more details about the issues surrounding the consumption of wild and farmed fish