fishing boats in bay

Farm fishing, or aquaculture has been on the rise since the 1990’s. Globally, we have become more reliant on farm fishing as the demand for fish increases. While these trends correlate through a simple supply and demand relationship, it’s important to note just how much aquaculture will play a part in satisfying our need for fish.

Farm-raised fish are raised in pens that are either submerged in lakes, ponds, land, or salt water. Captured, or wild caught fish are caught by fisherman in their natural environment.

When looking at fish for human consumption on a global level from 1974 to 2021 it’s clear that aquaculture has played and will continue to play a role in keeping up with this demand. In fact, by 2021, fish farms will account for over half of the fish market share globally.

Fighting the Fish Shortage

Consumers on a global scale are seeking healthier alternatives and are turning to fish. As we put this protein at center stage, the question is can the supply match the demand?

As more people are choosing fish, and more restaurants are putting it on the menu, just like any natural resource, it can only be stretched so far. Reports show that by 2030 if the demand continues at this rate, the supply will not be able to keep up. Asia will be the most impacted by this shortage of fish, as they are the top consumers of fish globally.

Science helped keep up with the demand for vegetables and meat, so again, science is stepping in to solve the fish crisis via fish farms, or aquaculture. Of course, there are farmed fish pros and cons, and some might wonder about farmed fish dangers, but as the practice becomes more common, it’s getting safer.

restaurant server explaining menu

Farmed Fish Catching On With Diners

Although there is still a stigma around farm fishing in some parts of the world, this method is gaining market share faster than anticipated. Here are some reasons why:

Food trends. Millennials are the largest population on planet Earth in 2017, and restaurant industry trends point to the fact that their food preferences are different than that of boomers. Because of that, they are very aware and knowledgeable about the food that they eat. Many are conscious of eating higher amounts of protein – enter, the rise of fish. Consuming fish has many benefits: it’s high in protein and omega 3s, helping to improve cognitive abilities and lowering the risks of heart disease.

Fresher fish. When you go out and catch fish in the ocean there are a variety of issues. First, many parts of the ocean are overfished. Second, to get these fish to market requires one to first send a crew out there for weeks, pick up the fish, package it, board it on a truck and distribute it. Just because you live in New York, does not mean that your fish is coming from the Atlantic, it could be coming from Europe or Asia, so the commute is much longer. Farm fish, however, typically come from areas closer to home. The farms are built closer to the demand and require less transportation and travel.

Better standards. The stigma against farm fisheries began in its earlier days in China, where aquaculture farms were located close to pig or cattle farms. There were also reports of high levels of PCBs, a carcinogenic chemical in these farm-raised fish. This news might make people wonder “is farmed fish bad?” However, as the practice of aquaculture grows stateside, the standards are higher and backed by the World Wildlife Fund and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council.

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Customers Fishing for Transparency

Consumers are more and more interested in how ingredients are sourced, and that includes the fish and seafood that they eat, too. Hence why programs like Trace and Trust, which aims for seafood transparency, have grown.

Trace and Trust is program developed last year by the fishermen of New England in collaboration with local area restaurants. The idea is to allow both restaurant owners and their customers alike to know exactly where their seafood came from. 

Most locally-sourced restaurants print a daily menu, which makes it easy for the restaurant owner to print the Fish ID’s that Trace and Trust creates, right on the menu. If not, they can display a separate menu or add an insert. This allows any customer to use their phones to visit the Trace and Trust website to find out more about where it came from, and when.

Knowing that a restaurant uses Trace and Track can certainly give restaurant-goers more faith and trust in the businesses that use the program.

And the benefit to the restaurant owner? They can have direct relationships with fishermen so they know exactly what they might have available for their kitchens on a given day.

As of now, fishing communities from New England, Maine, Alaska, and even the Bahamas have embraced similar ventures. Sea to Table, another similar program based out of New York, has tie ups with fishing communities as far as Trinidad and Tobago.

male cooks preparing sushi in the restaurant kitchen

Some Raw Fish Dishes to Try

In addition to fresh catches or farmed fish menu items that are sautéed, broiled, or fried, restaurants are also incorporating some raw seafood items into their menus. Here are some trends to try:

1. Gravlax

Gravlax is a cured salmon dish from Scandinavia. Originally made by fishermen during the Middle Ages, gravlax is traditionally served with dill for flavor. It’s pretty easy and foolproof to make, yet very few make it at home, which makes it a fun choice for an appetizer dish.

2. Ceviche

A dish traditionally found in Latin America. At its most basic, ceviche is made from raw fish that has been cured in citrus juices such as lemon or lime, and then seasoned with peppers, chopped onions or cilantro. Throughout Central and South America, the preparations can vary widely from country to country, or even town to town. Peru, which many argue is the birthplace of ceviche on the continent, has declared ceviche part of its national heritage and even has a holiday in its honor.

3. Poke

Poke is a dish found absolutely everywhere in Hawaii from grocery and convenience stores, to high end restaurants. Poke is an important dish in Hawaiian food culture and plays an important role in Hawaiian history.

Poke is generally made from cubed raw fish and seasoned in various ways, usually with soy sauce, sesame oil, and furikake. Poke is eaten as is, or over rice in a way that could be described as a deconstructed sushi. 

Farmed Fish Safety Tips

To help ensure that your customers are safely consuming raw fish, sustainably farmed fish, or wild caught fish, the strategies are the same:

  • Always buy from a trusted fishmonger.
  • Be sure the fish you’re buying is well-refrigerated, packed in ice, and does not have an overly fishy odor.
  • Keep fish in airtight containers in your fridge and use within two days.

Just because there are different ways to get your fish – farmed fish vs. wild fish, and beyond – don’t be afraid to learn more about the way fish are harvested. As the oceans are becoming overfished and demand for fish rises, aquaculture will save the fishing industry.

80% of a restaurant’s food sales come from only 16% of menu items. How do you know which ones? The perfect menu is just a click away with Upserve's Menu Builder.

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Written by   |  
Dawn Papandrea is freelance writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Family Circle, WomansDay.com, and more. She loves trying new restaurants with her family and friends in her spare time.