Environment

Study suggests eating salmon-feed fish, instead of farmed salmon

Study suggests eating salmon-f...
Commercial salmon feed contains fish oil and fish meal, which are obtained from wild-caught fish like sardines and anchovies
Commercial salmon feed contains fish oil and fish meal, which are obtained from wild-caught fish like sardines and anchovies
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Commercial salmon feed contains fish oil and fish meal, which are obtained from wild-caught fish like sardines and anchovies
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Commercial salmon feed contains fish oil and fish meal, which are obtained from wild-caught fish like sardines and anchovies

One of the great ironies of salmon farming lies in the fact that even though the salmon themselves aren't wild-caught, their feed is partially made up of smaller fish that are. According to new research, it would be ecologically better if we just ate those feed fish ourselves.

The study was conducted by scientists from the University of Cambridge, utilizing data from the production of farmed salmon in Scotland for the year 2014. In a nutshell, the researchers wanted to compare the volume of wild-caught feed fish to the volume of farmed salmon that was harvested.

It was found that in 2014, 460,000 tonnes (507,063 tons) of wild-caught fish were used to produce 179,000 tonnes (197,313 tons) of salmon. Furthermore, 76 percent of the wild-caught fish were species that are commonly eaten by humans, such as anchovies and sardines.

Extrapolating those figures to a global scale, the scientists estimate that if people were to eat the wild-caught fish which are currently used in salmon feed, almost 4 million tons (3.6 million tonnes) of fish that are presently caught could be left in the sea each year. At the same time, a greater volume of fish would become available as a human food source.

That said, the researchers do admit that their figures are based on salmon production for one country, during one year. Further larger-scale research will need to be conducted, although it is believed that subsequent studies will paint a similar picture.

"Allowing salmonid production to expand further via its current approach will place exceptional stress on global fish stocks already at their limit," said the authors of a paper on the research. "Our results suggest that limiting the volume of wild-caught fish used to produce farmed salmon feed may relieve pressure on wild fish stocks while increasing supply of nutritious wild fish for human consumption."

The paper was recently published in the journal PLOS Sustainability and Transformation.

It should also be noted that various studies are looking into ways of replacing the wild-caught fish used in commercial aquaculture feed with more sustainable alternatives such as oil-rich algae.

Source: PLOS via EurekAlert

11 comments
11 comments
Sean Reynolds
Come on! This is so weird. You're telling me you would rather just devastate the natural supply of salmon rather than create a farm raised supply for Food? You know the only wild cows are in India because we ate all of the cows were wild. Lets leave the wild salmon in the wild and eat food from farming! Lets stop the craze around wild caught.
CarolynFarstrider
I wonder if insect farming (crickets or black soldier fly grubs) could produce more environmentally friendly food for farmed salmon?
manta
Sean, I've lived in the NW Highlands since '94, when there were wild salmon, plenty of it. Fish farming detritus changed that - in sea pens lice get out of control, even with all the (very nasty, organo-phosphate, and worse) chemicals they use, and make lice 'mountains' under the pens - all of this kills wild salmon and most other sea life, plus they escape to disastrous effect on wild species, mainly salmon. I've worked the beaches and seen shellfish disappear from pristine shores. This article is about eating *any* fish they catch wild, which they 'have to' feed to keep 'your' farmed fish, which dies by the lorry load, miserable, and diseased - If you saw it, you'd leave it on the shelf. https://donstaniford.typepad.com/my-blog/2022/02/revealed-30-million-dead-scottish-salmon-since-2017-over-8-million-morts-reported-last-year-over-hal.html - https://theferret.scot/antibiotics-salmon-farm-50-times/ - these involve locals, and local fishermen, who fish sustainably.
Mary Finelli
Yes, that would be better but what would be best is if all the people who don't need to eat fish (or other animals) in order to survive would instead opt for a vegan diet. All of the nutrients we need in order to thrive can be obtained more healthfully, humanely, and environmentally responsibly from plant sources. Opting for a vegan diet frees up vast resources, prevents an immense amount of pollution, and spares countless animals from being cruelly caught/farmed/killed.

Science has shown that fishes, and other aquatic animals, are sentient. They can suffer fear and pain, and they very much do by being fished/farmed/slaughtered. As sentient beings they deserve respect and moral consideration not gratuitous cruelty. Leaving the fishes in the water also makes them available for the humans and other animals who genuinely need to eat them in order to survive.
paul314
The wild-caught smaller fish that feed the farmed salmon typically get transformed into some kind of meal/pellets first. Any chance we could do this with ocean life that's in surplus? Or even farm the salmon chow rather than hunt it? (In addition to the waste from going another level up the food chain, there's also the environmental cost of bycatch and the entire big-net industry.
Captain Danger
@sean What they are saying is do not eat salmon at all , just eat what is fed to the salmon.

This makes perfect sense from an energy pint of view. Each time a conversion takes place we lose something because of inefficiency.
They are saying that it takes 500,000 tons of raw fish to farm 200,000 tons of salmon and that more people could be fed straight from the raw fish.

Just as instead of letting cattle convert grass to meat some would have us just eat food grown directly off the land.

Of course this does not take into account that I like to eat salmon and beef and do not want to substitute it for sardines and lettuce.

@Carolyn There are plans to go straight from insects to people I have read articles on it . Apparently that is a very efficient way to create protein. Got to save the planet you know.

Soyulent Green anyone?
Aross
To me this all boils down to the totally wasteful methods we use to harvest wild fish. Until large drag nets were used fish were caught by individuals using hand lines or traps etc. It is the use of drag nets and long lines that has decimated the wild species numbers. For salmon it was the discovery of of their feeding grounds between Canada and Greenland that also contributed. This also did in the cod fishery of the Grand Banks.
We have to start looking at what we can do to produce food sustainable without destroying the environment and ecosystems. A good start would be population reduction.
DJ's "Feed Me Doggie"
@Captain Danger
So, there really is a "YOU" in "Soylent Green"!
Signguy
The Norway Slamon still tastes better than from Canada or Chile. There is NO PART of the Earth that ISN'T POLUTED. So eat, drink, & be merry, for we all die.
lon4
I won't order salmon if I know it's farmed, but I'd rather eat 2 pounds of it, than 5 pounds of anchovies! Same with farmed shrimp.
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