The Safina Center

Sep 10th
2009

Hungry, Hungry Fish Farms

“I should eat farmed fish to help save wild fish populations, right?”

That’s a question I get a lot.  From friends, family, reporters, high school classmates that I run into on the street.  Much to their chagrin, my answer is often “It depends.”

Farming fish doesn’t always take pressure off of wild fish populations.  Some farm-raised fish, like Salmon, are carnivores.  What meat do these carnivores eat in nature?  They eat other fish–other fish from wild fish populations.

Hungry fishUp to 5 kg of wild fish are needed to produce 1 kg of farmed fish.  That’s what we call a net loss of fish.  And it’s why our ranking methodology looks at feed for farmed fish, because this can be an important factor in how ocean-friendly farm-raised seafood is.

A recent study publicized in Canada’s The Globe and Mail reveals that 68% of fish meal and 88% of fish oil go to the aquaculture industry.  To reduce pressure on wild fish populations that are used for fish meal and oil, the authors suggest decreasing the amount of fish feed in their diet (while still making sure the fish are getting enough omega-3′s to stay healthy).

Not all farmed fish are carnivores.  Shellfish, including clams, oysters and mussels, are filter feeders and don’t require supplemental feed.

So next time you’re contemplating eating farmed seafood, you might want to ask what the fish has been eating.*

*You can find this info on our Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood or by texting FishPhone.

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