Is That Fish Farmed?

Photo by Thomas Bjørkan – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

A very common question and it’s one people ask because they want to stay clear of it. There’s a good chance nobody forages their vegetables or hunts their meat. People are, however, concerned about aqua farming and for good reason: Sixty-five per cent of fish farms are badly managed.

About 65 million tons of fish are wild caught every year for human consumption. An additional 30 million tons are caught to feed fish farms, primarily anchovies and sardines. That is a staggering number.

Other food sources for fish farms are soy (a salmon will float if fed only soy), blood meal (from slaughter houses), and chicken meal (chickens don’t swim). Fish farms are also blamed for an excessive use of chemicals, disease transfer to the wild population, pollution, and escaped fish. People have genuine concerns about where their food is coming from.

Wild caught is an option and there are some great managed fisheries. However the planet’s human population is seven billion and is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. That’s a lot more protein.

As it stands right now, we harvest, globally, 2.5 times more fish than what the oceans can sustainably support. In the past 40 years, global marine life has been slashed by 40 per cent. Larger, predatorial species like swordfish and blue fin tuna have declined by 90 per cent since the 1950s.

Needless to say our current food production system cannot support future human populations.

Fish can be farmed in ways that is healthy for us, the environment, and the fish. For example, one pound of beef requires nine pounds of feed, and 8,000 liters of water to produce. Fish, by contrast, need one pound of fish and hardly any water to produce one pound of … well, fish.

That is because fish float. They use far less energy than standing around all day resisting gravity. Fish are cold blooded, they don’t need to heat themselves, and as funny as this may sound, they hardly drink any water.

New technologies are out there that can produce food for fish that is natural and with little footprint. Microbes and insects are net water producers, they are very healthy for the fish and there is no need to cut down rain forests to produce them. Seaweed as well as micro algae are also more healthy alternatives to conventional fish feed.

It is now possible to farm more species, mimicking their natural environment, that is far more healthier for the fish, the planet and us. Even producing up to ten species at a time, off of each other. All at a cost comparable to conventional farming. It just needs scale.

So next time you’re at the fish counter, or a restaurant, and you find out the fish is farmed, ask where was it farmed (Atlantic salmon from BC, stay clear)? How was it farmed (land based or cage system)? Were antibiotics used (antibiotics are a must when fish are kept in extremely close quarters – stay clear)? What was the feed?

You, the customers will be the ones that will force the industry to wake up and embrace the healthy alternatives on a large scale.

“We must start using the sea as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is about. Farming replacing hunting.”

Jacques Cousteau

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