Fish farms are all too common. In fact, about half of the world’s seafood comes from farms. How to feed all those farmed fish is a big challenge. Soy is seen by some as a sustainable feed for factory farmed fish. The soy industry would gain over $200 million by promoting soy as food for farmed fish. The soy industry would make huge profits from the expansion of factory fish farming, according to a report by Food & Water Watch. Those large profits would come without a guarantee that soy-based feed is either a healthy option for fish or is environmentally responsible.
It takes one to two pounds of wild fish, processed into fishmeal or oil and put into commercial feed, to produce one pound of farmed fish. As farmed fishing increases, so does the demand for fishmeal and oil. From 1995 to 2010, the use of fishmeal by the farmed fishing industry increased by 75 percent, and the use of fish oil increased by 62 percent.
Some of the species of the small fish used to create fishmeal and oil are considered either fully exploited or overexploited. Exploiting those small fish species also threatens the populations of predatory finfish, marine birds and mammals that depend on them for survival.
Soy is not the answer for several reasons:
1. First, soy causes fish to produce excess waste which would lead to fish farming being even more damaging to the environment. In open ocean fish farming, uneaten feed flows directly from the cage into the environment.
2. Most soy grown in the U.S. (94 percent) is genetically modified (GMO). Expanding the already large soy industry in the U.S. alone would mean even more GMO soy being grown.
3. Expanding the soy industry means more environmental destruction. South America serves as an example where the expansion of soy production caused “massive deforestation and displaced indigenous communities,” as the report points out.
“Soy is being promoted as a better alternative to feed made from wild fish, but this model will not help the environment, and it will transfer massive industrial farming models into our oceans and further exacerbate the havoc wreaked by the soy industry on land—including massive amounts of dangerous herbicide use and massive deforestation,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch.
How consumers can oppose soy as fish feed
The report recommends several things consumers can do to stand against the promotion of soy as farmed fish feed:
- Eat only wild seafood from well-managed fisheries or sustainable fish farms. See Food & Water Watch’s Smart Seafood guide
- Oppose federal agencies’ efforts to allow commercial fish farming operations in federal waters
There’s one more thing you can do: oppose the expansion of fish farming. Last year, Rep. Don Young of Alaska introduced legislation (HR 574) to stop efforts by government agencies to expand farmed fishing into federal waters. Specifically, it would prohibit the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce from authorizing fish farms in federal waters without the Congress giving them the approval to do so. Please, sign the petition, No Fish Farms In Federal Waters, which asks Speaker of the House John Boehner to support HR 574.
Photo: Flickr user, IvanWalsh