The fish-farming industry is increasing its use of plant-based ingredients in its feed and moving away from traditional feed made from fish, which could impact some of the health benefits of eating certain types of seafood, suggests a new analysis from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The findings are published March 11 in the journal Environment International.
Half of the seafood consumed by Americans is farmed. Fish farming, also known as aquaculture, is the fastest-growing food animal sector, outpacing the beef and poultry industries. While wild fish find their own food — which includes smaller fish for carnivorous species — intensively farmed fish are fed a manufactured aquaculture feed. Until recently, this manufactured feed was typically composed of high levels of fishmeal and fish oil derived from wild fish — but it has become unsustainable to catch more wild fish to feed growing numbers of farmed fish, so the industry has shifted the makeup of the feed. For example, twice as much soybean meal was used in commercial aquaculture feed in 2008 as compared to fishmeal, and the use of crop-based ingredients is projected to increase 124 percent between 2008 and 2020.