Fish is the staple food for billions of people worldwide and primary source of protein for some of the world’s poorest. It is believed that a portion of 150 g of fish can provide about 50–60 percent of an adult’s daily protein requirements. The western media has somewhat glamourized the concept of sushi and sea food and projected it as a never-ending resource, but is that true?
As per the statistics, fish production has grown steadily for the past 5 decades. World capita fish consumption has increased from an average of 9.9 kg in the 1960s to 19.2 kg in 2012. Rising income levels and consumerism in the western countries have been responsible for the substantial growth but now the developing countries are catching up, particularly China.
Fishmeal and Fish Oil Demand
Another astonishing overfishing facts is that fish are not only feeding the human population but also the animals raised for food i.e. livestock industry and other fishes too i.e. aquaculture industry.
Dairy and meat industry have also witnessed a substantial rise in demand and to meet up with the demand, livestock animals are fed with fishmeal and fish oil to increase the protein content of the end products. Fish oil have also been used extensively in food supplements and other pet food products. Hence, it is no wonder that fish remains among the most traded food commodities worldwide.
In 2011, 23 Million tonnes of fish – essentially small pelagic fish species such as anchovy, herring, mackerel and sardine – have been destined to non-direct human consumption, of which 75 % (17 Million tonnes) was reduced to fishmeal and fish oil for aquaculture, poultry and other livestock feeding. In 2010, 73 % of the total world fishmeal was used to feed farmed fish, followed by pigs (20 %), poultry (5 %) and others (2 %).
Rise of Aquaculture
As per estimates, aquaculture production has increased more than threefold and is responsible for meeting the current rising demand. However, breeding fishes in natural water bodies comes at a price and is causing mass scale pollution due to the uncontrolled use of pesticides, antibiotics and chemicals. Due to the harmful practices of aquaculture, more than 200 dead zones spread across hundreds of kilometres have been identified in the oceans that can no longer support any marine life. The US marine biologist Peter Thomas says that around 250,000 square kilometres of coastal waters worldwide suffer from severe seasonal oxygen deficiency.
The current fishing methods are very harmful for the oceans as they are designed for industrial scale mass production to meet the ever-growing demand. Most of the overfishing websites overlook one of the biggest downsides, bycatch.
The world’s oceans are getting empty of fishes and according to the united nations’ estimates almost 2/3rd of world’s fish stocks are either considered depleted or overfished. This is quite a concerning fact as lots of marine species are disappearing at the drop of hat. Researchers believe that once a species has extinct, there are very few chances of its re-existence. If the above situation becomes a reality than it would disrupt the entire ecological balance of the oceans as each species have a distinctive role to play in maintaining the balance of the marine world.
For eg. industrial-scale fishing is threatening the krill population in Antarctic waters, with a potentially disastrous impact on larger predators. Lots of big fishes depends on the small fishes for food and it directly impacts their existence.