On plates, farmed fish will beat out wild fish within six years

A walleye in Silver Bay, Minnesota. By 2018, fish farmed for consumption is expected to exceed fish caught in the wild.
(Sam Cook / Duluth News-Tribune / MCT)

By 2018, the salmon fillet or sushi on your plate more likely than not will have originated from a fish farm rather than from the wild, according to the United Nations’ food agency.

Output from fisheries and aquaculture is expected to soar 33% over the next decade, reaching 172 million tons in 2021, according to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The group refers to crustaceans, amphibians, aquatic reptiles, sea urchins, jellyfish and more as fish.

That’s a 12% increase from the 154 million tons produced last year. Of that, 131 million tons were set aside as food for humans – two-thirds of it eaten in Asia.

As the amount of fish captured in the wild stays steady, worldwide food fish production linked to aquaculture has grown an average of 8.8% each year for the last three decades.


Last year, 90.4 million tons of fish were caught while 63.6 million tons were raised – about 600 species bred in 190 countries. But the share of farm-bred fish is expected to pass the halfway mark around 2018 and reach 52% by 2021.

Despite rampant overfishing, fish consumption will exceed 43 pounds a person within the next decade – nearly doubling the level in the 1960s.

But the FAO report cautions that aquaculture is vulnerable to outbreaks of disease and environmental disasters, which in recent years have affected production of Atlantic salmon, oysters and shrimp.

Although fish farming has declined in North America, the industry is booming in countries such as Brazil, Peru and China.


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