© Mikaela Toczek

How is my seafood is caught & farmed?

Fish can be caught and farmed in numerous different ways.

How fish are caught

Wild fish can be caught in a variety of different ways, from the traditional rod and line to traps and trawl nets large enough to capture a passenger airplane. Our guide details the most commonly used fishing methods, with a brief explanation of how they work and their environmental impacts.

How fish are farmed

Basically, it’s farming (culture) in water (aqua), and often referred to as fish farming. Usually, fish are grown from eggs in hatcheries, then grown in bigger pens or tanks until they reach the size for harvest. Different fish are grown in different ways depending on their needs and the country they are grown in. Here in the UK Atlantic salmon are grown in floating pens in the coastal waters of Scotland.

Nearly half of the fish we eat are farmed and this percentage is rising. Global aquaculture is growing to match our increasing demand for seafood and to fulfill economic targets. Europe is striving to match the global growth rate of 6-7% per annum from its starting point of zero growth today. Closer to home, Scottish finfish aquaculture has a target to produce 220,000 tonnes of finfish by 2020 from the 174,000 or so tonnes in 2015.

Rainbow trout are grown in freshwater ponds and raceways (a bit like concrete channels) next to rivers. Warmwater prawns are grown in brackish water ponds in countries such as Madagascar, India and Vietnam. Some fish are grown in land based tanks with seawater flowing through them, like the Atlantic halibut farmed in Scotland.

Fish farming has environmental impacts, which is why MCS has developed an aquaculture programme. It’s our job to try to make sure that the environment doesn’t pay the price for the growth in aquaculture.

With many farmed fish species requiring other fish in their diets, it’s part of our job to try to ensure that those “feed fish” are not overexploited (watch the video above). We also want to ensure good management happens on farms - to reduce the chance of escapes, lessen impact on the surrounding environment and prevent disease outbreak.

MCS works to ensure that comprehensive production standards are in place and are effective. With consumers having the power to drive market demand to produce the best environmental choices for farmed fish, it’s also our job to advise what those choices are.

The future

Aquaculture has been around for over 2,000 years and is here to stay. It’s important to remember that it’s more than just salmon farming in Scotland. For many around the globe it’s subsistence farming and a way to feed families. Varied in size and technologies – from small ponds underneath stilted houses to huge multi-national companies floated on the stock exchange – it’s an important food producing sector that will contribute to our future protein needs.

It’s because of all of that, that MCS has an aquaculture programme, to help shape that growth and make sure that the ecosystem and environments that support it don’t pay a high price in the process.

Actions you can take

  1. Download our guide showing how fish are farmed
  2. View the IFFO 'Value Chain Animation' video
  3. Download our guide showing how fish are caught

Did you know?…

In the UK we eat 486,000 tonnes of seafood a year, which is 8.2kg per person

Farmed fish and shellfish production will have to increase by 133% by 2050 to meet projected seafood demand worldwide

Over 3,000 sq km of our seabed is now protected from bottom-towed gear

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