Aquaculture: farmed fish


Half of the fish that arrives on our tables comes from aquaculture: it is farmed fish. The thing can like it or not, but - underlines the FAO in its online pages dedicated to the fisheries - in the perspective of the constant increase of the world population and of the reduction of the natural reserves of fish, the industrial breeding of fish, crustaceans and molluscs is an ace in the sleeve. It is not a last-minute invention: research from 2003 suggests that Australian aborigines practiced aquaculture 8, 000 years ago (see), but it is in the last thirty years that fish farming has become an industry.

THE NUMBERS SPEAK. Since 2000, world production has increased by 7% every year. In the Europe of 28 alone it represents 20% of fish production and employs 80, 000 people. In the 2013 report of the STECF, the European Commission's fisheries committee, it reads that "aquaculture is the fastest growing animal food production sector in the world and contributes increasingly to global food supply, to food security and economic growth "(link to the Stecf report in pdf, in English). After the 2008-2009 crisis, in fact, water farming has shown significant and constant growth in response to the increase in consumption.

Image Fish dependence day 2014: the fish of the European seas is finished on 11 July. | Bengt Lundberg / Nature Picture Library / Contrasto

THAT INSUFFICIENT NATURE! In addition to the Overshoot Day, the (calculated) day in which the resources that the Earth can renew from year to year (August 19, 2014) end, there is also a Fish dependence day: for 2014, made fish in Italy (the catch of our seas) is technically exhausted from 15 April, that of European seas since 11 July. It is a technical deadline that should be interpreted in this way: considering consumption in our country, if in Italy we only ate fish from our seas, there would be no more already from April 15 and for the rest of the year there would be only imported or bred fish .

However, consumption in industrialized countries is only part of a wider global food question.

NOURISH THE PLANET. The FAO stresses the great food challenge "in a world where over 800 million people continue to suffer from chronic malnutrition and in which it is estimated that the population will increase by another two billion in 2050", emphasizing the "significant role of fishing and aquaculture in eliminating hunger, promoting health and reducing poverty ". Therefore also economic well-being: sector analyzes show how this market employs millions of people around the world.

FAO on the occasion of World Food Day:

the keystones in the world hunger war.

The FAO and the governmental organizations (including the European Union Stecf) stress that this economic development takes place safeguarding the environment and the natural resources of the planet. However, a debate has opened on this aspect that highlights many contradictions.

Image The "harvest" of fish in China. | ROOM PRESS / Large Fish Catch In China / Contrasto

RESOURCES IN EXCEPT OR RISK? Damage to coastal ecosystems caused by the extraordinary concentration of animal excrement and decomposing organic matter in extremely reduced spaces; little attention to animal welfare, crammed to capacity in enclosures in the water; use of animal feeds and flours capable among other things of depleting the fauna; possible genetic modifications that can have serious repercussions on wild species.

In summary, we have reported the list of what some environmental associations put on the other side of the scale. Certainly not all the aquaculture activities are the same: some are more respectful of the environment and animals, and deliver tasty and valuable products on the fish market counters; others churn out fish, molluscs and crustaceans below the reasonable quality and environmental standards.

And whatever technique is used, on the "economic data" side it must be added that fishermen feel crushed by competition with farmers at a time when their sector is in crisis and their product is necessarily more expensive.

With aquaculture, therefore, the ancient hunter-breeder opposition is back on the scene and in the ongoing discussion the themes are those of good breeding practices and environmental and commercial issues, including labeling (see).