The practice, which has been branded ‘wasteful and unsustainable’, risks collapsing marine food webs, the joint review of the latest scientific research on the impacts of reduction fisheries – where wild catch is turned in to fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO) – found.
Published by Compassion in World Farming and campaign group Changing Markets Foundation, the report – Until the seas run dry: how industrial aquaculture is plundering the oceans – said FMFO was made up mainly of small forage fish. This included sardines, anchovies, mackerel and herring as well as crustaceans – mainly krill – in aquaculture feed.
However, the report authors warned that this multi-billion pound industry drove overfishing, illegal fishing and lacked transparency and sustainability.
“When considering the negative consequences of using wild-caught fish for FMFO, we must not overlook the huge impact that these industries have on animal welfare,” said Dr Krzysztof Wojtas, head of fish policy at Compassion in World Farming.
“As industrial aquaculture grows, the number of animals suffering in these intensive farming systems multiplies and brings in another hidden layer. Most people are not aware of the additional suffering of hundreds of billions of small fish that die horribly on huge industrial fishing vessels in order to fuel these underwater factory farms. The industry must urgently address this crisis.”
Fifth of total catch
Almost 70% of landed forage fish are processed into FMFO, representing about a fifth of the world’s total catch of wild fish – 90% of which is fine for human consumption, the report stated.
It added that the industry is heavily reliant on wild-caught fish for feed, with over 69% of fishmeal and 75% of all fish-oil production used to feed farmed fish. Aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food production sector.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projects it will provide 60% of the world’s fish consumption by 2030.
The global fishmeal market was worth approximately US$6bn (£4.6bn) in 2017 and is forecast to reach US$10bn (£7.67bn) by 2027.