No food production system now in use is truly sustainable from an energy or biodiversity perspective as they generate waste, require fossil energy, use water and change land cover (Diana, 2009). In a situation where increased food production is required to feed the worlds growing population, the essential question is how finfish compares to other domestic animals. This is challenging since use of sustainability indicators developed for one production system may give false results if uncritically applied to other systems.
Feed provision is the single most important contributor to resource use and emissions associated with producing animal products, including finfish. Marine finfish feed has historically contained fish meal and oil as primary protein and lipid sources. Rising demand and prices along with static annual global production has led to increased use of vegetable and terrestrial protein and fat sources, but not to increased landings of forage fisheries.
Increased use of vegetable and terrestrial protein and fat sources will support continued growth of the finfish aquaculture. However, new additional cost-effective lipid sources with high long chained n-3 fatty acid levels will be required.
It is an oversimplification to assume that terrestrial plant and animal feed ingredients are more environmentally sustainable that marine ingredient sources. The environmental cost of some vegetable products is substantial and exceeds that of some harvested marine products.
For example, Atlantic salmon is an efficient domesticated animal with high utilization of nutrients, a high production yield and rendering of by-products, and compares very favorably to terrestrial farm animals such as poultry and swine.
DIANA, J. S. (2009) Aquaculture Production and Biodiversity Conservation. Bioscience, 59,27-38.
NAYLOR, R. & BURKE, M. (2005) Aquaculture and ocean resources: Raising tigers of the sea. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 30, 185-218.