Farming Fish for the Future
Global fish production grew by 1.3% from 2007 to approximately 159 million tons in 2008. Aquaculture accounts for nearly half of the fish produced worldwide and is projected to comprise half by the year 2012. Human consumption accounts for 77% of total fish production, while the remainder is used for non-food production and animal feed.
Worldwide, fish consumption is on the rise due to its affordability and its perception as a healthy food. However, as demand for fish increases globally, populations of marine species are becoming increasingly exploited, leading to a shift in production from fishing to aquaculture in order to meet global demand for fish products.
Aquaculture provides certain benefits over wild fish, including predictability in both supply and quality. However, the expanding aquaculture industry brings additional concerns including social and ecological fallout from the industry. Poorly run fish farms can induce coastal pollution and bring additional diseases into natural environments (in addition to fish welfare concerns).
The greatest growth in aquaculture is currently among large farms that raise high-value predatory fish like salmon, striped bass, tuna, and shrimp. Despite improvements in feed ingredients and technologies, the recent growth in fish farming outweighs any gains in feeding efficiency. Modern fish farming appears to have a net drain on the world’s seafood supply.