Aquaculture problems: Fish feed

Aquaculture is contributing to overfishing through the use of wild-caught fish as feed for farmed fish.

 / ©: WWF
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Most farmed marine fish and shrimp species are carnivorous. They are either fed whole fish (mainly in the case of tuna) or pellets made of, amongst other things, fishmeal and fish oil. In both cases, the fish used as feed are caught from the wild.

The amount of feed needed for farmed fish and shrimp is staggering. For example:

  • up to 22kg of wild-caught fish is needed to produce just 1kg of farmed tuna
  • 4kg of wild-caught fish is needed to produce 1kg of farmed salmon
  • up to 2kg of wild-caught fish is needed to produce 1kg of farmed marine shrimp

This means that the aquaculture industry is using a large proportion of the fish caught in the world’s oceans each year.

Many of the fish stocks used as feed - mostly anchovies, pilchards, mackerel, herring, and whiting - are already fished at, or over, their safe biological limit. So instead of relieving pressure on the marine environment, aquaculture is actually contributing to the overfishing crisis that plagues the world's fisheries.
 / ©: Jo Benn / WWF-Canon
Fish food (fish meat and oil made into pellets) for salmon in bucket. Villa Leppefisk salmon farm, Vestnes, Norway
© Jo Benn / WWF-Canon
Around one-third of the world’s fish catch is used to produce fishmeal and fish oil - both of which as used to make feed for farmed fish.

In 2004, the aquaculture industry used 87% of the world’s fish oil and 53% of the world’s fishmeal, with salmon farming alone using over half the global production of fish oil.

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