The future of seafood
As our global population increases, and seafood consumption rises with it, the demand for fish has never been higher. So where will our fish come from?
How to feed a growing planet
As a nation, we have always relied on wild caught fish to provide our seafood. We are all familiar with the sight of fishing boats out at sea or in the harbour. It's part of our history, heritage and culture.
Wild fish were seemingly inexhaustible, but as technology improved, our ability to catch fish started to outweigh their ability to reproduce. We now find ourselves in a position where over 90% of all global fish stocks are unable to provide us with any more of this sought-after protein.
Globally, our population increases by about 80 million people a year, and seafood consumption rises with it (by around 1.5% a year). The demand for fish has never been higher.
So where will our fish come from?
We need to manage our fish stocks better. In the UK, improved fisheries management could increase the amount of sustainable seafood we catch by 27% a year, providing more than 5,000 jobs. We are working hard to make this a reality. But in the past few decades, the shortfall in seafood supply has been met by the aquaculture industry.
Aquaculture (or fish farming) has been around for thousands of years, but its expansion in the past 30 years has been huge. It’s the fastest growing sector in food, averaging around 6% growth a year, and it now accounts for 50% of the seafood we eat.
Aquaculture accounts for 50% of the seafood we eat
Of the top five fish we eat – salmon, cod, haddock, tuna and prawns – two are farmed and three are wild caught. Warmwater prawns (the big juicy ones) are farmed and so is salmon, our nation's favourite fish. By diversifying the seafood that we eat, we can help take pressure off this tiny group of species.
Some species like mussels and oysters are perfect candidates for farming. Other larger predatory fish, like salmon and seabass, can require large amounts of feed to grow to marketable size, and pollution from these farms and escaped fish can be problematic for the marine environment. We are doing everything we can to improve aquaculture sustainability standards across the world, from farm to fork.
Seafood has a much smaller carbon footprint than most land-based proteins. Innovative aquaculture techniques and well-managed fisheries will play a really important role in supplying our growing population with nutritious food.