June 2020

Off the Menu: the Scottish salmon industry’s failure to deliver sustainable nutrition

The NHS recommends that we eat two portions of fish a week: seafood is a good source of vital micronutrients like omega 3. But with wild fish populations are under severe stress, the Scottish salmon industry frames itself as part of the solution – a source of healthy, omega 3-rich fish, without increasing demand for wild fish. The reality is not so simple: Scottish farmed salmon’s high levels of omega 3 are the result of feeding salmon with fish oil made from hundreds of thousands of tonnes of wild fish each year. This report, taking the Scottish farmed salmon industry as a case study, explores how we could meet our micronutrient needs from fish, while posing a minimal burden on our oceans. Using nutritional modelling, we show that by directly consuming a wide variety of small, oily fish, commonly used for salmon feed, we could access the same level of micronutrients as through current levels of farmed salmon consumption, while avoiding the capture of 59% of fish currently used in Scottish salmon feed. This report reframes the debate on fish consumption to show that flexible, diverse fish diets are possible while protecting the long-term health of our oceans.

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