2006 | FCRR 14(3)
Edited by Jackie Alder and Daniel Pauly.
Many believe ‘forage’ fish to consist of species suitable only for reduction to fishmeal and fish oil, and that they are abundant, and therefore can be fished without regard to other components of the ecosystem, including marine mammals and seabirds. This document highlights that the term ‘forage’ fish is, mostly, another name for the sardine, anchovies, mackerels and other fish which are traditionally consumed in various cultures. Indeed, they represent a crucial component to the food security for many poor people, especially in developing countries. These fish, moreover, play an important role in marine ecosystems, as they mediate the transfers between plankton and the predators on top of marine food webs. In the process, they also transfer persistent organic pollutants (POP), for example dioxin, up the food web. Finally, they are key to the development of the aquaculture sector, and the continued affordability of intensively produced animal protein, whether tainted with POP or not.
This is the first study that integrates and presents a comprehensive, global view of forage fisheries, specifically: trends in catches since the 1950s; how landings are used by humans including consumption, trade and use in food production; the interaction between forage fisheries and humans and marine animals; and the link to a POP (dioxin) deposition into the ocean. This report is also the first to estimate the consumption of fishmeal in the aquaculture sectors of various countries since 1975, when global feed databases were initiated.
The catch trends of forage fisheries were analysed, highlighting that, in Europe, fish targeted for reduction change, with new species replacing those that are fished out, while in Latin America and the United States, the stocks are considered to be fully exploited. Also, there is little scope for finding new stocks to increase fishmeal and fish oil production. Moreover, while the industrial fleets of the world are ‘fishing down marine food webs’, the aquaculture sector, which increasingly feeds fishmeal even to herbivorous species, is ‘farming up marine food webs’, with the average trophic level of fish used in the feed itself increasing.
Small and medium pelagic fishes–i.e., forage fish–are a source of relatively cheap protein for several African nations, and thus, when the fisheries in question decline, the food security of people is at risk. Fishmeal and fish oil are key ingredients in feeds for aquaculture, and will in part determine the level of expansion of carnivorous aquaculture until alternatives are found. Expansion of aquaculture will be at the expense of intensively produced poultry, and will ultimately impact consumers in the market place.
Forage fish are also important as prey for marine mammals and seabirds. This document dispels the argument that marine mammals compete with commercial forage fisheries in more than a few areas of the world; also, the demonstration is made that there is virtually no overlap between seabirds and commercial fisheries. On the other hand, there are indications, albeit limited, that marine mammals and seabirds are impacted by commercial fisheries.
This is the first study to model the atmospheric deposition of dioxin in marine systems, and then simulate its uptake by various organisms. When combined with information on where forage fish are caught, processed and traded, this leads to a picture of the global human food systems in which POP can appear at any location and in any guise—a worrying thought.
This report is a joint effort by many members of the Sea Around Us Project, who have authored its various chapters. This report thus demonstrates the interdisciplinary nature of the Sea Around Us Project and its ability to synthesize information from a wide variety of sources into a coherent whole, the story of the world’s largest fishery. I take this opportunity to thank Brooke Campbell for her assistance in producing the graphs and layout of this report.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|CHAPTER 1. FISHERIES FOR FORAGE FISH, 1950 TO THE PRESENT||1|
|CHAPTER 2. HUMAN CONSUMPTION OF FORAGE FISH||21|
|CHAPTER 3. MARINE MAMMAL AND SEABIRD CONSUMPTION OF SMALL PELAGIC FISHES||33|
|CHAPTER 4. FISHMEAL AND FISH OIL: PRODUCTION, TRADE AND CONSUMPTION||47|
|CHAPTER 5. GLOBAL DISPERTION OF DIOXIN: A SPATIAL DYNAMIC MODEL, WITH EMPHASIS ON OCEANDEPOSITION||67|
|CHAPTER 6. ECOSYSTEM MODELING OF DIOXIN DISTRIBUTION PATTERNS IN THE MARINE ENVIRONMENT||83|
|CHAPTER 7. SYNTHESIS: ON THE MULTIPLE USES OF FORAGE FISHES||103|