Our organization, Fish Welfare Initiative, exists because there are serious animal welfare problems in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Most fish eaten by humans are still killed inhumanely, often by asphyxiation, and the stunning that occurs is often ineffective. Stocking densities often greatly exceed what is beneficial to the animals. The industry is still struggling with pests and diseases. And there has been little to no research into the welfare needs of many aquatic species, especially those farmed in Asia.
Fortunately, the industry is progressing. We have been delighted to see many salmon producers in Europe adopt pre-slaughter stunning over the past decade, and we are delighted that all major aquaculture certification schemes, FOS at CSAhave incorporated animal welfare into their standards.
However, many welfare issues remain in commercial fishing and fish farming. And to some extent, we expect them to stay forever: improve as we will, raise animals en masse will simply always lead to neglecting the care of certain animals.
That’s one of the reasons we’re excited about the rise of seafood alternatives: they’re taking animals out of the picture. There’s no need to worry about stocking densities or humane slaughter with plant-based tuna.
I’m no expert on alternative seafood, but my biggest concern for the industry is whether it can lower prices enough to make its products both desirable and accessible to the average consumer. My understanding is that these are largely engineering issues and economies of scale, and that these issues should be able to be resolved in the not-too-distant future.
I expect some alternative seafood products to start by only appealing to a niche group of high-income consumers and then gain popularity from there. This strategy has already worked for other alternative protein companies. For instance, impossible foods They originally only sold their burgers in high-end restaurants, but now you can get one at any Burger King in the United States.
To the extent that we want to make these products accessible to a wide range of consumers, both in high-income countries like the United States and in middle-income countries like India, I think the solution is to invest more in these companies, no less. I am convinced that most seafood companies are already doing their best to make their products both accessible and desirable for the average consumer.
I’m also glad to see that there are already several alternative seafood companies out there, like Shiok meatsdedicated to serving part of the Asian market.
Objectives for the sector
I follow the aquaculture industry closely and sometimes see traditional seafood producers reacting with skepticism to alternative seafood products and expressing concern that they might reduce the share of traditional seafood market. I get that – alternative seafood is a new, rapidly advancing technology with great disruptive potential.
However, I hope the alternative seafood industry will not develop as something the traditional industry fears, but as something it welcomes as an innovative part of the industry. For example, I’ve heard several people in the industry talk about the need for more young talent to get involved in seafood. Well, here’s a great opportunity! We know that young people in particular find alternative proteins appealing, and it’s pretty clear that the average demographic of staff at these alternative seafood companies is quite young.
If the seafood industry wants to make itself more innovative, vibrant and relevant to young people, I can think of no better way to do that than to invest in alternative seafood.