October 27, 2008
A new study reveals that small fishes caught in the oceans and are processed into feeds are draining which threaten global food security.
Cultured fish, pigs and poultry are consuming 28 million tonnes of fish a year, or roughly six times the amount of seafood eaten by Americans. A nine-year study by the University of British Columbia has found that 90 percent of small fish caught in the world's oceans yearly such as anchovies, sardines and mackerel are processed to make fishmeal and fish oil. They are used as a cheap feed for aquaculture (including farmed Atlantic salmon, prawns and trout), poultry, pigs and animals bred for the fur industry.
The study's findings, to be published next month, warn this use is unsustainable, given current rates of global overfishing. According to University of Columbia senior researcher Dr. Jacqueline Alder "society should demand that we stop wasting these fish on farmed fish, pigs, and poultry. Although feeds derived from soy and other land-based crops are available and are used, Alder said fishmeal and fish oil have skyrocketed in popularity because forage fish are easy to catch in large numbers and, hence, relatively inexpensive.
Alder fears that excessive harvesting of forage fish is "squandering a precious food resource for humans and disregarding the serious overfishing crisis in our oceans". According to the study, small forage fish account for 37 percent, or 31.5 million tonnes of all fish taken from the world's oceans each year. Of this amount, 90 percent is processed into fishmeal and fish oil. Current figures show 46 percent of fishmeal and fish oil is used as feed for aquaculture, 24 percent for pig feed and 22 percent for poultry. Alder said this shows that pigs and poultry around the world consume more, twice as much seafood as the Japanese eat. On the other hand, the farmyard animals eat more than six times the amount consumed in the United States.