There Aren’t Plenty of Fish in the Sea
5 December 2014

Early last year, a study by the international ocean conservation organization Oceana made waves by reporting that one-third of all seafood sold in the United States was mislabeled, according to DNA testing. Consumers were understandably upset to learn that their wild red snapper could be cheap, farmed tilapia or that their wild salmon was actually raised in a tank. Fish fraud, it seemed, was rampant.

In the not-so-distant future, however, the reverse may hold true: Consumers may be aghast to find out that their sustainably farmed halibut was actually trawled from a commercial fishery. After all, seafood remains one of the last types of foods that we harvest from the wild at a commercial level, and fully 90 percent of the world’s fisheries are deemed overexploited or exhausted. This year, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), aquaculture surpassed wild capture as our main source of seafood for the first time. That makes 2014 the year of “peak wild fish.”

joint OECD-FAO report shows that the global appetite for the fruits of the sea will grow over the next several decades. With wild fish supply flat, aquaculture is filling in the gap and taking pressure off our oceans. Since the 1990s, aquaculture production has more than tripled, and today, more than 200 species of fish and seafood are raised in farms.

The rapid expansion of aquaculture has not been without tradeoffs, and, arguably, its meteoric rise contributed to our wariness of fish farms today.

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