We have some crazy news to share with you! A new study has found that out of the 20 million tons of fish caught by commercial industries a year for purposes other than eating, about 90 percent are, in fact, food grade. While this might not seem incredibly shocking at face-value, when you learn that these perfectly edible fish are being turned into fishmeal and fish oil, which is primarily used to feed farmed fish or factory farmed animals, such as pigs, and chickens, you’re likely to start scratching your head.

The world’s oceans are currently teetering on the brink of collapse due to large-scale commercial fishing operations. According to a report from the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, 80 percent of global fish stocks are “fully- to over-exploited, depleted, or in a state of collapse.” Also, about 90 percent of large predatory fish stocks (sharks, swordfish, and bluefin tuna) have been diminished. Some conservation experts predicting that our oceans could be empty by the year 2048 if fishing continues at its current rate. So with this information in mind, why on Earth are we adding insult to injury by depleting the ocean’s further to feed our appetite for meat.  Adding to that, 2.48 million tons of fish is used globally by the global cat food industry every year. Compared to this the Grey seals of the North Atlantic consume a mere 314,000 tons of fish.


Tim Cashion, a researcher for the Sea Around Us project at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Ocean and Fisheries, and his colleagues have been collecting data from fishery catches around the world from 1950-2010 to figure out who caught which species and where the fish went after it was taken out of the sea. What his team found is staggering. Around 90 percent of these fish who are caught for fishmeal or fish oil, are either food-grade (used as food somewhere in the world) or prime-food-grade (widely accepted as food everyone). Basically, this means we’re feeding fish that could be consumed by people – around one billion people rely on fish as their primary source of protein.

We are running out of time to save our ocean ecosystem and yet again, we’re seeing efforts to feed livestock instead of people cause mass destruction to the world’s environment. Eating seafood may be directly depleting our oceans, but it seems there is yet another connection to marine collapse in the form of meat. 

While this information is troubling, we can all help make a difference with our food choices. By reducing the amount of meat and seafood you consume, or eliminating it completely, you can help lower the demand for fish meal, which is causing fish stock depletion.

To learn more about how your diet can help to keep our oceans clean, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet movement!


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