Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pigs and chickens help empty the oceans

We catch nearly 100 million tons of fish from our oceans each year, and an astounding one-third of that catch is fed to pigs, chickens and farm bred fish, according to a new study by the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science.

Even worse, the fish in question-- sardines, anchovies and other small to medium-sized fish-- come from near the bottom of the food chain, not the top, meaning their decline impacts ocean life on every level, right up to the tunas, swordfish and ocean mammals.

A billion people a day, mostly in developing countries, depend on fish as their primary protein source. Yet in a scenario similar to the production of ethanol, three to five pounds of fish is required to produce a single pound of farm-bred fish. Given that these "forage fish" are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, it makes more sense for people to consume these fish directly, the Institute's director Ellen Pikitch says.

Fish stocks are in decline worldwide, although at least some nations-- members of the European Union, the United States and Canada-- have begun reducing their fishing fleets controlling the size of the catch. Better management in warm water countries have shown fish populations can rebound in as little as 18 months, although cold water fish take longer.

In the meantime, people who enjoy fish have yet another reason to stick to fresh-caught fish and to avoid farmed products.

Chart from the World Watch Institute

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