Fishy Business

Uncovering the truth behind fish farming in Europe

Farmed fish is often marketed as a ‘premium’, ‘healthy’ and ‘sustainable’ option, a way to consume protein without putting pressure on overfished wild populations.

But the real picture is far murkier.

Our campaign, Fishy Business, works to expose the darker underside of the booming fish farming industry, highlighting how the production of many farmed fish, including salmon, raises huge social, ecological and ethical concerns.

What's the problem?

Today, more than half of the seafood produced annually is farmed.  In the last 40 years, the aquaculture industry has gone from providing just 5% of the world’s fish to over 50% – and that growth shows no signs of stopping. Europe – especially Norway and Scotland – is a key site for the production of farmed salmon, as well as other species like trout and sea bass.

Farmed fish consume millions of tonnes of wild-caught fish in their feed, in the form of fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO). As demand for wild fish for feed rises, companies are increasingly sourcing these wild fish from the Global South, in places like Mauritania, South Africa, Chile and Peru. However, this production model creates a problem: fish that are or could be a vital source of food and income for coastal communities are instead being used to feed the fish consumed by the Global North. It’s a hugely inefficient and unjust use of nutritious fish, which could be eaten directly by people.

On top of this, the salmon farming industry is extremely wasteful and inefficient, failing to make good use of the vital micronutrients in wild fish caught for feed. Our research shows that eating wild fish directly, rather than feeding them to salmon, could mean far more seafood was available for human consumption while leaving more wild fish in the sea. In addition, high levels of disease on salmon farms results in high mortality rates – wasting wild fish caught for feed and posing a nightmare for farmed fish welfare.

We need to drastically reduce the amount of farmed fish we produce and consume, and stop using wild-caught fish to feed them.

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What's the solution?

1. Aquafeed producers must eliminate their dependency on wild-caught fish. 

Our study published in PLOS Sustainability and Transformation reveals that eating wild fish and restricting the inclusion of wild fish in aquaculture feed could reduce pressure on fish populations while also increasing seafood production.

By limiting salmon farming to using feed made from fish byproducts, rather than whole wild-caught fish, 3.7 million tonnes of fish could be left in the sea and global seafood production could increase by 6.1 million tonnes.

We developed alternative production scenarios where salmon were only produced using fish byproducts, and then added more wild-caught fish, mussels or carp for human consumption. All alternative production scenarios produced more seafood that was more nutritious than salmon and left 66-82% of feed fish in the sea.

Read the full study here.

 

2. Food Markets in the Global North must reduce their reliance on farmed salmon, and other forms of ‘fed aquaculture’. 

Instead of promoting farmed salmon to customers, major food companies need to stop selling all farmed fish fed on purpose-caught wild fish. They also need to start offering better alternatives, such as wild fish caught to rigorous environmental standards – which might mean being flexible on what they can offer and when. By doing this, food companies will enable their customers to get the health benefits of consuming fish without damaging the long-term viability of wild ocean ecosystems or the livelihoods of coastal communities.

Check out the sister campaign, Our Fish, Notre Poisson, which focuses on resisting fishmeal and fish oil production in West Africa.

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Latest updates in this campaign

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60 Aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food sector, it will account for 60% of global fish consumption within the next 10 years

What can you do to make a difference?

New research

Read our new reports calling on the farmed salmon industry to overhaul feed practices to protect wild fish

Read now