Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Costs of Fish Farming

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

The Costs of Fish Farming

Article excerpt

"Effect of Aquaculture on World Fish Supplies" by Rosamond L. Naylor et al., in Nature (June 29, 2000), Porters South, 4 Crinan St., London NI 9XW, UK.

Fish farming (a.k.a. aquaculture) looks at first glance like a sure-fire way to take some pressure off the world's overfished oceans. Not necessarily, warn Naylor, a senior research scholar at Stanford University's Center for Environmental Science and Policy, and her nine co-authors. The problem, they explain, is that some aquaculture increases the pressure on ocean fisheries.

Aquaculture has grown rapidly in recent years, producing 29 million metric tons of farmed fish and shellfish in 1997, more than twice the tonnage of a decade earlier (but still no more than a third or so of the 85 to 95 million metric tons of wild fish caught each year.) Roughly 90 percent of the world's fish farming is done in Asia, particularly China. Family and cooperative farms raise carp for local or regional consumption, while commercial farms produce salmon, shrimp, and other highly valued fish for tables in Europe, North America, and Japan.

But aquaculture's net contribution to the world's fish supplies has been much smaller than its gross one, the authors point out. In 1997, about 10 million metric tons of small wild fish--Atlantic herring, chub mackerel, Japanese anchovy, and other species--were taken from the oceans and used in compounds fed to the farmed fish. Modern compound feeds are not much used in the farming of carp (which are plant eaters), but they are needed in intensive commercial aquaculture. …

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