Fishing to feed salmon farms emptying seas

Farmed salmon

The oceans are being “plundered” for fish to feed farmed salmon in Scotland and around the world, according to a new report.

Millions of tonnes of sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring, krill and other species are caught and ground into fishmeal and fish oil, known as FMFO. This is fed to salmon caged in hundreds of farms along the west coast.

Now an 80-page report by campaign groups, Changing Markets Foundation and Compassion in World Farming, warns that growing dependence on FMFO is threatening human food security, putting marine wildlife at risk and harming animal welfare.

The report, however, has been attacked by the international FMFO industry as “unbalanced”, “biased” and “inaccurate”. The industry insists that the majority of FMFO is “responsibly sourced”.

The new report says that almost a fifth of the world’s total catch of wild fish is currently processed into FMFO, most of which is used to feed farmed fish. The global fishmeal market was worth approximately £4.6 billion in 2017.

Pressures to catch more are likely to increase as the fish farm industry expands. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has predicted that global production of farmed fish will reach 109 million tonnes by 2030, and provide 60 per cent of the world’s fish consumption.

The fish farming industry argues that it has the potential to deliver affordable, healthy protein. This can be done, it says, with little carbon pollution while reducing the overexploitation of wild fish for human consumption.

Salmon Industry

But the industry is failing to deliver on these promises, the report claims. “Grinding wild fish into FMFO to feed a growing aquaculture industry raises concerns of overfishing, poor animal welfare and disruption of aquatic food webs,” it concludes.

“It also undermines food security, as less fish is available for direct human consumption. Given the rapid growth of the sector, it is clear that the aquaculture industry’s business-as-usual approach is pushing marine resources beyond planetary boundaries and disregarding the welfare of hundreds of billions of sentient animals.”

Campaigners are calling for salmon companies working in Scotland to mend their ways. “The farming of carnivorous fish such as salmon is putting huge pressure on wild fish stocks and poses a threat to food security in some of the world’s poorest countries,” Natasha Hurley from the Changing Markets Foundation told The Ferret.

“As one of the biggest global producers of farmed salmon, the Scottish aquaculture sector is playing a big part in this. We urge Scottish companies to do the responsible thing and take swift action to phase out the use of wild-caught fish in feed.”

This was possible, she insisted. “We are calling on aquafeed producers to switch to sustainable alternatives that do not give rise to other ecological problems.”

According to the report, up to 45 mostly Chinese-owned fishmeal factories have been built along the West African coast from Senegal to Mauritania in recent years. This has led to more than half the fish in the region being over-exploited, it says.

Read the full article Fishing to feed salmon farms is emptying the seas, claims report at The Ferret.

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