Thursday, May 7, 2015

Fish Farming Sustainability


As the sea becomes fished out, we turn to aquaculture (fish farming), however, the operation comes with its own challenges, especially in the context of its ecological impacts, yet approximately 40% of the fish we eat world wide is now farmed.  

In her book Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappe argues that grain-fed cattle were essentially "reverse protein factories" because they required many more pounds of plant protein to produce a pound of flesh. The same can be said to varying degrees for fish farming, where often, the conversion factor is very high for the top (apex) carnivore fish, typically the kind of fish we prefer to eat. To create 1 kg (2.2 lbs.) of high-protein fishmeal, which is fed to farmed fish (along with fish oil, which also comes from other fish), it takes 4.5 kg (10 lbs.) of smaller pelagic, or open-ocean, fish. To bring a 1 lb of Tuna to the the table, it takes approximately 20 lbs. of feed.  

Satisfy the feed requirements of the rapidly growing aquaculture industry poses the risk depleting fisheries. A staggering 37% of all global seafood is ground up into feed.  One third of that feed goes to China, where 70% of the world's fish farming takes place, and nearly another half is used for livestock, mostly pigs and poultry.

Meanwhile, WWF, formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund, has been working with producers, buyers and various NGOs since 2004 to craft voluntary industry standards aimed at minimizing or eliminating environmental damage.  Standards will yield certifications of sustainability for a range of popular seafoods; the first, covering tilapia, is expected by the end of the year.

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