In theory, fish farming was meant to take the pressure off marine fish stocks,
but as it turns out, this “sustainable” method is adding to the problem!
Text and images by Kerry Leach
A POPULAR NOTION
It seemed the answer to overfishing was simple – every fish nurtured on a farm is one less fish taken from the ocean. This was what Frank van der Linde believed; so in 2008, he and his partners started a fish farm to try and save the ocean’s fish from being depleted. But as soon as they started their farm, they were in for a shock – they discovered that this industry was actually emptying the oceans instead!
Feeding Fish with Fish
Most fish farmers in Asia feed their farmed fish with fish caught from the ocean, and in order for a farmed fish to reach one kilogram in weight, it needed 11kg of ocean-caught fish to eat! How was this sustainable?
11kg of ocean-caught fish = 1kg of farmed fish
A Marginally Better Alternative
The more-educated fish farmers used pellets instead, even though it was more expensive. 1.5kg of pellets were needed to grow one fish to 1kg. This seemed like a better solution, but in reality, the overfishing was still worsening – 4.5kg of ocean-caught fish was needed to make 1.5kg of pellets.
4.5kg of ocean-caught fish = 1.5kg of pellets to yield 1kg of farmed fish
VITAL NUTRIENTS FOR GROWTH
A fish needs protein to grow, and the protein in pellets come from fish meal. Therein lies the problem – to make 1kg of fish meal, roughly 5kg of fish are needed! Some bony fish need up to 60 percent protein, which means for every kilogram of pellets made, 600 grams of fish meal is used, and for every kilo of pellets, 3kg of fish need to be taken out of the ocean! Bony fish Between 970 and 2,700 billion fish are caught each year as global fish consumption continues to rise rapidly.
Two species of fish farmed at Eco Aquaculture
Frank and his partners wanted to farm fish without taking anything out of the ocean. They knew this would require an awful lot of research, testing and trials, but they took on the challenge. They put their own small fish-feed production line on an uncountable number of trials! The ultimate goal was to find a completely sustainable meal replacement that contained the right amount of protein. Finally, after a long period of trial and error, they found the answer in the insect industry – black soldier fly larvae meal (BSFLM). This was a breakthrough! In 2017, they started producing 100 percent sustainable fish feed for any kind of fish, taking NOTHING from the ocean.
Today, Frank’s company, Eco Aquaculture, is likely the only fish farm in the world that holds a formula for fish meal that is made of black soldier fly larvae and algae for that allimportant omega-3 supplement. This success story is one of the first positive steps towards an ocean full of fish and shows the world that fish farming can be sustainable.
If you would like to know more about 100-percent sustainable fish farming or you want to help save the oceans and still be able to eat fish, go to www.ecoaquaculture.asia.
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