The ocean covers two-thirds of our planet and plays a crucial role in sustaining life on Earth. However, overfishing, pollution, growing demand for natural resources and climate change are placing ocean ecosystems under extreme stress. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that over 90% of global fish stocks are either overfished (33.1%) or fished to maximum sustainable levels (59.9%). Chronic over-harvesting of fish and other species poses a threat to biodiversity, to the long-term sustainability of fisheries and to the people who depend on them for their lives and livelihoods. Despite these trends, global seafood consumption has doubled over the past 50 years and roughly half of world fish consumption today comes from aquaculture. Proponents of the industry claim aquaculture has the potential to deliver affordable, healthy protein and could provide a way of diverting pressure from wild fish stocks. However, the industry is failing to deliver on this promise due to its continued reliance on wild-caught fish; almost one-fifth of the world’s total catch of wild fish is processed into fishmeal and fish oil that is fed to farmed fish. This campaign highlights the impacts of using wild-caught fish to feed farmed fish on marine ecosystems and food security and sheds light on murky global supply chains.
Fishing for Catastrophe
Based on findings from undercover investigations in Vietnam, India and The Gambia, this report presents damning evidence that the production of fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO) for use in the growing global aquaculture industry is destroying fish stocks, marine ecosystems and traditional livelihoods as well as undermining the food security of vulnerable communities. Our findings reveal that demand for FMFO is fuelling overfishing, exacerbating other pressures on wild fish stocks such as climate change, and that the species being taken to produce FMFO are often food grade fish Through in-depth supply chain research we trace the tainted supply of FMFO from fishery to farm to fork, implicating some of Europe’s biggest retailers, as well as the world’s largest aquafeed producers. With over 50% of the seafood we consume coming from aquaculture, a figure predicted to rise to 60% by 2030, the pressure on wild fish stocks to feed farmed species is growing. Against this backdrop, the report analyses the risks that irresponsible sourcing of feed raises for companies throughout aquaculture supply chains. It finds that the sector’s continued dependence on wild fish for use in aquafeed represents a systemic threat for companies, with FMFO and aquafeed producers being particularly vulnerable. Through their increasing reliance on farmed seafood fed using FMFO, other sectors – such as seafood processing and retail – are also exposed to these risks, which include disruption of supply, rising costs of raw materials and reputational damage.
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Until the Seas Run Dry: How industrial aquaculture is plundering the oceans
This report shines a spotlight on the environmental and social impacts of reduction fisheries, i.e. the use of wild-caught fish in fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO) to feed farmed fish. It provides a comprehensive review of latest scientific research on the impacts of reduction fisheries on marine ecosystems, an examination of the geographies of destruction in which FMFO production take place, and a brief analysis of some of the major corporate players behind the expansion of the aquafeed industry into a multi-billion-euro business. The evidence shows that grinding wild fish up to to feed a growing aquaculture industry raises concerns of overfishing, poor animal welfare and disruption of aquatic food webs; it also undermines food security in developing countries, as less fish is available for direct human consumption. Our research highlights that, despite their commitments to sustainability and transparency, fishmeal producers and major aquafeed companies disclose little information about the origin, quantity or sustainability of the wild-caught fish used in their feed. The limited information that is available shows that many companies source from regions with poor food security (such as West Africa) and from fisheries that are not sustainably managed, or for which insufficient information exists to assess their stock status. Given the rapid growth of the sector, it is key for the aquaculture and aquafeed industries to phase out the use of wild-caught fish for aquafeed and fish farming in order to prevent further unwarranted destruction of marine resources.
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