Walt Whitman once said, “all beef is grass.” In like manner, once but no more, “all fish was plankton.”
Sixty-six million tonnes of farmed fish was produced in 2012, that topped the 63 million tonnes of beef produced.
The same held true of farmed fish production being larger than the reported world fish catch. The world from now on will surely eat more farmed fish than wild fish or beef. It’s perhaps not a surprise as we do live on a blue planet that is more than 70% water. That the fish we eat is mostly farmed is more of a surprise.
Just how long we thought we might hunt down wild food in the oceans when we have all but eaten all wild foods on land is a question of conscience not science.
We may have reached the carrying capacity to farm animals on land as much of the world’s pastures are today at or beyond capacity. Likewise most of the world’s ocean pastures and the fisheries those pastures support are now in a state of desperate ocean plankton collapse. At the same time the remaining pasture fish being overfished.
Here’s a link to the dismal ocean pasture story….and the yin and yang of pastures on land and at sea. If we restore the ocean pastures we can bring the “wild” fish back.
The economics of fishing as a hunting of wild stocks is becoming very difficult. Boats today must use more fuel to travel to more remote and deeper waters to make their catch and that fuel is costing ever more each year. More days are required at sea to fill up the boat if it even can be. So while we are in need of more fish the wild ocean pastures have allowed to collapse do dramatically wild fish may soon be a thing of the past.
Humanities palate for animal food has been shaped by their local environment. Grassy regions have always offered up grazing animals as food. In coastal communities wild fish have traditionally been top of the menu. But now with no room on rangelands and dying ocean pastures, producing more beef and fish for a growing world population has led to reliance on feedlots on land and aquaculture.
Raising raising fish or livestock in densely populated farm conditions requires far greater care than simply hunting wild stocks. But once the hunting of wild stocks has depleted their numbers and worse once their pastures have been destroyed we become reliant on farmed animals. Supporting self-sustaining wild and domestic stocks on managed pastures can with careful stewardship be accomplished but such caring management is often neglected on land and to this date has been utterly neglected in the oceans.
Thus we are more and more and more reliant on feedlots on land and in the water. Food for both fish and beef feedlots largely comes from grains and legumes that have been added to animal feed.
Cattle typically consume 7 pounds of grain or more to produce each pound of beef.
This is twice as much feed as that for pigs, and three times that of chicken.
Fish are far more efficient, typically eating less than 2 pounds of feed for each pound of flesh.
Pork and poultry are surely the most widely eaten forms of animal protein worldwide, but farmed fish consumption is increasing the fastest. Aquaculture production is growing at 6 percent a year, poultry 4 percent, and pork 1.7 percent, all fast outpacing beef.
Farmed fish are now recognized as healthy food to replace animals. Red meat is blamed for higher risks of heart disease, colon cancer, and other disease. Beef also gets a bad rap for having a large carbon footprint and for destroying habitat, notably in the Amazon Rainforest where cattle pastures are replacing forest at a disturbing rate.
The practice of aquaculture dates back millennia. China, which grows 60+ percent of the world’s farmed fish, has long grown many species that eat a wide variety of feeds —phytoplankton, zooplankton, grass, or bacterial detritus in pond systems. Omnivorous carp and their relatives are still the mainstay of Chinese aquaculture, making up nearly half the country’s output. Tilapia, the fish Jesus referred to in his teachings of “loaves and fishes”, is the mainstay around the world as the most farmed fish.
Filter-feeding shellfish, clams, mussels, scallops, and oysters, account for close to 30+ %. Carp, catfish, and other species are also grown in Chinese rice paddies, where their waste helps nourish the rice.
Some farmed stocks like salmon and shrimp, are picivorous species that need are often feed fishmeal and fishoil enriched vegetable diets produced from wild stocks.
Due to the collapse of ocean pastures from the devastation of CO2 fish stocks used for fishmeal and oil that used to make up about a third of the world oceanic fish catch, are now at dangerously low numbers.
Aquaculturalists are working steadily to reduce the amount of fishmeal and oil in their feeds with some success. Stiff competition for fishmeal and fish-oil is common. Norway, the world’s top farmed salmon producer, now imports more fishoil than any other country. China, the leading shrimp producer, uses 30 percent of the fishmeal traded each year.
On a per capita basis, beef consumption is now less than 20 pounds (8.9 kilograms) each year (globally) will surely never rebound to the 24 pounds eaten in the 1970s. In contrast annual world fish consumption per capita at 42 pounds has risen from 25 pounds in the 1970s.
It will surely keep rising as more fish are farmed. With the additional fish coming from farms rather than the seas, there is an urgency to make aquaculture as sustainable as possible. Feed producers are using more and more seafood scraps and today roughly a third of fishmeal is made up of such scraps. Aquaculturists are also increasingly substituting livestock and poultry processing scraps and plant-based feeds for fishmeal and oil.
As the global population of 7 billion people, growing by nearly 80 million per year, we must find the healthy food to feed what will be an additional Two China’s of new children that will be inhabiting this planet with us by the year 2060. Turning to restoration and replenishment of vast ocean pastures is surely the only place we can look to feed those kids.
Fish overtaking beef – United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture(FAO) and by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the Agricultural Outlook 2013-2022 report.