DAY 20 – FISH 3 – NEIL DEACON

We need to question the value that we place on fish. We pay very little for non-premium species such as Snoek and Yellowtail. We should be paying more for fish that are threatened. Fish are superior protein to animal meat. By-catch is fish that are caught that are not targetted species, so they are collatoral damage. There is a lot of work being done to reduce the amount of by-catch, e.g. seabirds. Design of gear to make it more efficient.

Trawler nets tear fish apart so only around 40% of a catch is hauled out whole while the rest is turned into fish meal, which sells for almost nothing. If value is removed from any natural resource then people won’t invest in it – so there is a case for adding commercial value to a resource such as fish, i.e. increasing the price, in order that more resources be put into protecting them.

Fish farming, or aquaculture, looks good on paper – it’s called ‘The Blue Revolution’ – but the costs of aquaculture are also high. You are taking good protein and converting it through an inefficient process into poor protein, through using other fish species to breed high-value species. Also it is limited to high-value products such as Abalone and prawns. Salmon is an exception because it is becoming a kind of new chicken in terms of its availability.

The other problem with aquaculture is pollution – for example in Scotland, food for the salmon falls through the cages to build up a toxic sludge on the loch bed. Fish farms use anti-biotics to prevent disease, which is transferred into the environment and into those who eat the fish. And the aesthetic value of natural spaces is degraded. Pump-ashore is slightly different because fish are first reared in the sea and then transferred to tanks on land. The cost of farmed fish is often higher than that of wild fish.

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