Fishy Business

New research Eating wild fish instead of using it as feed would allow nearly 4 million tonnes of fish to be left in the sea. Find out more

Uncovering the truth behind Scottish fish farming

Eating fish and eating sustainably can be a challenging combination. Eating seafood is good for us – the NHS recommends two portions of fish a week, with one of them being a portion of oily fish – but we don’t want it to be at the expense of the health of the oceans and the opportunity for future generations to enjoy their bounty. More than half of us say sustainability affects our shopping decisions when it comes to seafood.

Scottish salmon is marketed as a premium, high-quality product. The truth is Scottish fish farming is causing significant local environmental damage and has impacts around the world through the sourcing of wild fish to make farmed salmon feed.

What's the problem?

Fish farming is on the rise. In the last 40 years it has gone from providing just 5% of the world’s fish to nearly 50% and that growth shows no signs of stopping. Yet the production of farmed Scottish salmon is based upon a dramatically unsustainable method. Salmon farming relies on significant quantities of fish meal produced from wild fish to feed fish while causing significant local pollution in some of the most dramatic and unspoilt ecosystems in the Europe in Scotland where the farms are located. On top of this the Scottish fish farming industry wasted 10 million fish in 2016.

The Scottish salmon industry currently uses roughly the same quantity of wild-caught fish to feed its salmon as is purchased by the entire adult population of the UK in one year. And it has plans to grow exponentially, aiming to double in size or more by 2030. Our research estimates that to fuel this ambition, the Scottish salmon industry will need to source 310,000 tonnes more wild fish per year to make into salmon feed, assuming it continues to use the same proportion of wild fish in its feed ingredients.


What's the solution?

Feedback Global’s study published in PLOS Sustainability and Transformation  reveals that eating wild fish and restricting their inclusion in aquaculture feed could reduce pressure on fish stocks while also increasing seafood production.

The research demonstrates that by limiting salmon farming to using feed made from fish byproducts, rather than whole wild-caught fish, 3.7 million tonnes of fish could be left in the sea and global seafood production could increase by 6.1 million tonnes.

We developed alternative production scenarios where salmon were only produced using fish byproducts, and then added more wild-caught fish, mussels or carp for human consumption. All alternative production scenarios produced more seafood that was more nutritious than salmon, and left 66-82% of feed fish in the sea.

Read the full study here.


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What can you do to make a difference?

Research on Scottish Farmed Fish

Read Feedback Global's new reports calling on the farmed salmon industry to overhaul feed practices to protect wild fish

Read now