Wild fish stocks wasted to feed farmed salmon, study finds | Food

Shoppers’ appetite for salmon is causing millions of tonnes of nutritious mackerel, sardines and anchovies to be wasted as fish feed, according to new research.

Its authors claim that salmon farming is an inefficient way to produce nutritious seafood, calculating that 0.5-99% of the minerals, vitamins and fatty acids found in wild fish are not retained when they are are fed to farmed Atlantic salmon.

They say taking wild-caught fish out of aquaculture feed production and diverting it to human consumption, and raising more carp and less salmon, could increase global seafood production by 6.1 million tonnes, while leaving 3.7 million tons of fish in the sea.

Lia ní Aodha of Feedback Global, who worked on the report, said: “Salmon farming is a good example of the profound inefficiency and inequity of the global food system. Much of the nutrient-dense fish used to feed farmed salmon comes from southern regions where food insecurity is rampant, while the salmon is mainly sold to consumers in high-income markets in Europe, North America and parts of Asia. ”

Feedback, which campaigns for a sustainable food supply, worked with researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Lancaster and Liverpool to investigate the sources of food – and the nutrients transferred from it – in Scotland’s salmon industry, the most Great Britain’s food export. They calculated that in a single year, 179,000 tonnes of salmon produced on Scottish fish farms consumed fishmeal and fish oil produced from 460,000 tonnes of wild fish, 76% of which was edible.

In their article, published on the Plos Sustainability and Transformation research forum, they said: “Most wild edible fish species in [fish meal and fish oil] have higher concentrations of key micronutrients than farmed salmon, and for some of these micronutrients, as little as 1% is retained in farmed salmon.

“For calcium, iron, selenium and zinc, 1-28% are retained in farmed salmon. Scottish salmon is often marketed as high in omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), but omega-3 levels are similar in anchovies, herring, sardines and sprat, and only 49% and 39% of DHA from wild fish is retained. in farmed salmon.

In 2016, 15 million tonnes of wild-caught fish were ground into fishmeal and fish oil for use in agriculture and aquaculture. According to the figures quoted in the document, salmon fishing accounted for 60% of fish oil and 23% of fishmeal destined for aquaculture, while producing only 4.5% of the sector’s world production. .

The authors still saw a role for aquaculture, but preferred carp and mussel farming to salmon.

Dr James Robinson of Lancaster University, who was involved in the study, said: “Aquaculture, including salmon farming, plays an important role in meeting global food demand, but wild fish Nutrients should be prioritized for local consumption rather than for feeding salmon, particularly if caught in areas where food insecurity is not assured.

“Support for alternative feeds can facilitate this transition, but we still need more data on the volumes and species used for fishmeal and fish oil, as this can show where salmon farming is putting additional pressure on fish. fish stocks.”

Hamish Macdonell, director of strategic engagement at Salmon Scotland, which represents salmon farmers, said: “Of the 5.5 million tonnes of fishmeal and fish oil produced each year, Scottish salmon farmers in use less than 1%. The vast majority goes to other uses, including pet food.

“It is therefore fundamentally wrong to claim that the fishmeal industry would cease if it was not included in feed for aquaculture. Supply would simply shift to another, less sustainable use. If activists like the ones behind this report really want to do something to save forage fish, they should take a look at what we’re all feeding our pets.

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