>> Tuesday, September 8, 2009
In the beginning of the year there, was an article I wrote about published in Biology News about the rapidly growing industry of fish farming. Aquaculture is now responsible for 50% of all the consumed fish in the world. In a study completed by Stanford University, growth trends and environmental impact were looked into. While this move into aquaculture seems promising and sustainable, there are still a few kinks to work out.
While the farms reduce strain of wild fisheries for certain species, many species are still farmed in pretty unsustainable ways. Many fish farms use large amounts of fish oil and fish meal to enhance the flavor of the fish they are eating. All of this fish oil and fish meal comes from wild caught anchovies and sardines. This is putting a strain on those fisheries. Small schooling fish like these are an important part of the ecosystems in which they thrive so reducing their numbers could cause a significant strain on other forms of wildlife. To produce one pound of salmon, it is estimated that approximately five pounds of wild caught fish are used. Salmon is still a popular choice for consumers around the world, so that is literally tons of wild fish caught. Makes the salmon you eat seem a bit more valuable, doesn't it?
Not all farm raised fish have this sort of impact, though. There are many species of fish that are very well farmed and incredibly sustainable. Many of these are vegetarian fish like carp and tilapia. Between 1997 and 2007, there was a decrease in the amount of fishmeal used to raise these fish by about half. However, there is such a high demand for these fish that many of the farms still use some fishmeal and 12 million metric tons of fishmeal were used for vegetarian fish in 2007! That is a lot of fishmeal! NOAA is working on a plan to regulate and better manage these farms to become more sustainable and really become less of a strain on the marine ecosystem and the environment. Remember, to really know where your fish is from, just ask. If you want more info, download a Seafood Watch guide for your area. You can even check during dinner from your cell phone by going to mobile.seafoodwatch.org. I carry a sushi guide and national guide with me everywhere I go!