Background last update:6 Aug 2012

Depleting fish stocks

Most farmed marine fish and shrimp species are carnivorous. They are either fed whole fish (mainly in the case of tuna) or pellets made of, amongst other things, fishmeal and fish oil. In both cases, the fish used as feed are caught from the wild.

The amount of feed needed for farmed fish and shrimp is staggering. For example: up to 22kg of wild-caught fish is needed to produce just 1kg of farmed tuna 4kg of wild-caught fish is needed to produce 1kg of farmed salmon up to 2kg of wild-caught fish is needed to produce 1kg of farmed marine shrimp.

This means that the aquaculture industry is using a large proportion of the fish caught in the world’s oceans each year. Currently, one-third of the world’s fish catch is used to produce fishmeal and fish oil.

In 2004, the aquaculture industry used 87% of the world’s fish oil and 53% of the world’s fishmeal, with salmon farming alone using over half the global production of fish oil. Many of the fish stocks used as feed - mostly anchovies, pilchards, mackerel, herring, and whiting - are already fished at, or over, their safe biological limit.

This whole issue has put pressure on the future of wild fish stocks and has raised questions on the use of fish meal and fish oil. Aquaculture farms are increasingly aware of the need for sustainable approached and are therefore looking for alternatives to fish oil and fis meal (vegetable sources).

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