Fish feed threatens marine collapse

The use of wild fish to feed farmed fish is threatening food security and risking a collapse of marine life, according to campaigners.

A new report published by the Changing Markets Foundation and Compassion in World Farming claims that the practice of harvesting millions of tonnes of fish from the wild every year to produce fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO) - key ingredients of farmed fish feed - is driving overfishing, illegal fishing and human rights abuses in wild fishery operations.

FMFO used in aquafeed uses small forage fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel and herring and crustaceans like krill, the vast majority of which could be directly consumed by humans.

The report called for an end to the practice which it said was depleting keystone species and causing environmental problems by fishing further down the food chain.

It added that despite commitments to reduce reliance on fish protein and increase sustainability and transparency, fishmeal producers and major aquafeed companies disclose little information about the origin, quantity or sustainability of wild-caught fish.

The report highlighted that major aquafeed producers, including Cargill Aqua Nutrition, Skretting, Mowi (formerly Marine Harvest) and Biomar, source raw materials from West African and Latin American countries, where it claimed the industry is undermining food security and the health of ecosystems through unsustainable fishing practices and polluting fishmeal factories. In recent years, up to 45 fishmeal factories have been built along the West African coast, from Senegal to Mauritania processing pelagic fish into fishmeal.

“Aquaculture has been hailed as delivering affordable, healthy protein, as well as diverting pressure from overfished wild-capture fish stocks,” said Natasha Hurley, campaign manager at the Changing Markets Foundation. “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.”

Aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food production sector with the FAO projecting it will provide 60% of the world’s fish consumption by 2030 from its current share of just over 50%.

The industry is heavily reliant on wild-caught fish with over 69% of fishmeal and 75% of fish oil production used to feed farmed fish.

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