Fish farming is outpacing beef production for the first time in modern history, reports the Earth Policy Institute, and farmed fish is expected to also outpace wild caught fish this year as well.
2012 saw 66 million tons of farmed fish, whereas beef production was at 63 million tons. Beef production has been slowly decreasing since the late 1980s, and the rising cost of feeding the animals (soy and grains) has made beef increasingly more expensive as well. According to the Earth Policy Institute, cattle consume seven pounds of grain or more to produce an additional pound of beef, but fish are more efficient, “typically taking less than two pounds of feed to add another pound of weight.”
Aquaculture fish farms come with their own issues though, reports the Earth Policy Institute, “As cattle ranches have displaced biologically rich rainforests, fish farms have displaced mangrove forests that provide important fish nursery habitats and protect coasts during storms. Worldwide, aquaculture is thought to be responsible for more than half of all mangrove loss, mostly for shrimp farming. In the Philippines, some two thirds of the country’s mangroves—over 100,000 hectares—have been removed for shrimp farming over the last 40 years.”
And many of the popular fish species consumed, including shrimp, salmon and tuna, are carnivorous species, requiring the harvesting of other fish species from the wild to turn into fishmeal. “[M]ost forage fish stocks (think anchovies, herrings, and sardines), which typically make up about a third of the world oceanic fish catch, are dangerously overharvested,” the authors write.
Aquaculture environments are similar in nature to confined animal feed operations (CAFOs) used for land-based livestock, notes the Earth Policy Institute. And this means an excessive amount of animal waste, antibiotics and other chemicals that are entering the environment at unprecedented rates, and with destructive consequences.
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