fish on deck

Just four years from today, fish farms will account for over half of the fish market share globally.

When it comes to food trends, American consumers in 2017 seek healthier options and prefer to know the origin of their food. They also care about their impact and footprint on the world that they live in. If these values hold true, why are many consumers hesitant to fully support the fish farm movement?

Food preferences change with each generation.

The demand for seafood is on the rise, resulting in the oceans becoming more overfished. There are many reasons for the uptick in demand over the last decade, one beginning with the most recent generation.

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 easy, high in protein and omega 3s, helping to improve cognitive abilities and lowering the risks of heart disease.

The demand for fish is on its way to surpass the supply.

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. Science helped keep up with the demand for vegetables and meat, so again, science has stepped in to solve the fish crisis.

Aquaculture will save the global fish industry.

Aquaculture, also known as farmed fishing, has been on the rise since the 70s. By 2021, over 50% of the fish for consumption will be from aquaculture, not captured in the ocean. While this rise is inevitable, gaining consumers’ confidence is where the challenge begins.

Mary Ellen Camire, professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Maine explains that 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.

This graph shows how fast aquaculture has taken the fishing market share.

The good, the bad, the fishy.

Clearly, aquaculture is saving the fishing industry and without it, we would have a much smaller demand for fish globally. 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. The stigma against farm fisheries began in its earlier days in China, where aquaculture farms were located close to say pig or cattle farms. They were also reports of high levels of PCBs, a carcinogenic chemical in these farm raised fish. However, as the practice of aquaculture rose stateside, the standards are higher and backed by the World Wildlife Fund and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council.

Just because there are different ways to get your fish, you should not be afraid or be avoiding a certain way fish is harvested. The seafood industry is changing, and aquaculture is the driver, whether you like it or not.

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Hannah can be found riding the slopes of New Hampshire by winter and riding the waves of Rhode Island by summer. In order to satisfy a constant sweet tooth, you can find her bouncing between Ellie's Bakery and Pastiche, both in Providence, RI.