Aquaculture industry scouring the earth for protein and fat. A new way to redistribute wealth?

by artmackay

Image! It takes 4 to 20 pounds of raw protein to raise 1 pound of aquaculture salmon!

Depending on who you talk to, it appears that somewhere between 4 pounds and 20 pounds of good raw fish protein and oil is used to produce food pellets which will produce only one pound of Atlantic salmon.Think of that! In a protein starved world we could be using as much as 20 lbs of perfectly edible fish flesh to produce one pound of salmon for consumption by the privileged few! To maintain the current rate of growth by the global aquaculture industry, increasingly large quantities of raw protein and suitable oils will be required on a sustainable basis. In fact, Fish Farmer Magazine estimates that the industry is currently using a full one-third of the world fish oil supply or some 400,000 tonnes of the 1.2 million tonnes available. Further, the industry is expected to grow "several fold". Industry oil needs will clearly outstrip the current supply.

Atlantic Salmon Adults
Atlantic Salmon Adults
Art MacKay

As for protein sources, everything is up for grabs since most of this material is rendered into meal. East coast stocks of capelin, herrring and other species have been and remain major targets for protein/fat seekers. Other species will be sought from the Pacific and from Third World countries around the globe. Indeed, if history is our guide, "new" sources may come to include protected species like whales and seals or protein and fats from rendered vertebrate species. If this happens, then we are entering the truly unknown and dangerous grounds of "mad cow" potential. Certainly, needs will rise as traditional finfish aquaculture continues to expand and the culturing of new species and transgenic "frankenfish" will raise the stakes even higher. There is no doubt that the industry will continue to grow and the industry is responding vigorously to its forthcoming needs.

"The aquaculture industry must look hard for alternatives to fish oil and fish meal." Fish Farmer
Magazine quotes Hans Abrahamsen of Nutreco. " The search has a high priority in the Nutreco
Aquaculture R&D programme and in marketing activities ... If aquaculture is to fulfil its potential as a
major global source of protein, the industry must find new sustainable sources of proteins and fats
before demand for fish oil and fish meal outstrips supply."

Elsewhere scientists are receiving major funding to find alternate sources of protein and oil. "An award of £22,780 has been made to Dr. Gordon Bell from Stirling University in Scotland by the Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia to examine aquaculture production alternatives to fish meal and oil which will be needed soon. Dr. Bell, who works at Stirling University's Institute of Aquaculture said, "The fatty acids in the oil component of diets are required to provide the essential ingredients for normal growth and development and to provide energy. We shall investigate the substitution of fish oil with palm oil in the diets of Atlantic salmon. Then, we shall assess the effects of substitution on growth and fish health as well as product quality." (Fish Farmer Magazine and on line at

We are consuming our planet at an alarming rate. We decimated our cod stocks by over-fishing and poor management. We sold off our capelin and wondered why our commercial fish species went into decline. We have ignore killing sprays, coastal pollution and acid rain. What happens when we start intensive global trading in animal proteins and fats in order to ensure the continued growth of the world aquaculture industry? What will happen when we redistribute essential proteins, oils, and trace elements from their areas of origin, where they have circulated for millennia, to other places on our globe? Will we further deprive Third World countries, as well as our own, of much needed and valuable protein and oils by transforming these vital materials into profits for the multinationals who control the aquaculture industry?

Sadly, aquaculture may yet become another vehicle which further impoverishes peoples around the
world. Properly managed as a tool of community sustainability, it might have saved us.

Updated: 07/04/2020, artmackay
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