Prey Fish: The New Target

04 Mar 2009

Overfishing and aquaculture have depleted some larger fish species and now smaller fish are being impacted.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s annual report on the State of Fisheries and Aquaculture says climate change will put even more stress on fish populations. Warm water species will be forced to move towards the poles, changing their marine and freshwater food webs and habitats.

Larger fish that are the fish staples of many a dinner plate, including salmon, bluefin tuna and swordfish, are already overfished. This is now putting pressure on the smaller fish that these fish eat called prey fish.

A new report entitled “Hungry Oceans” from the non-profit group Oceana says that with the depletion of fish such as bluefin tuna and wild salmon, fishing fleets are turning to prey fish to make money. In the past they used these species only for bait and subsistence, but now they are increasingly being used to feed farmed versions of the large predator fish.

The UN report says much of the fish eaten today comes from aquaculture. In 1970 about 6 percent of fish for human consumption came from fish farms. In 2006 that number was up to 47%. The U-N says it may soon provide half of all fish eaten worldwide.

To help reverse the impact on prey fish Oceana says fisheries must set conservative fish limits, fishing should be avoided in the breeding areas of depleted species, and prey fish need to be restored in the wild to help bring back predator fish.

Representatives from 80 countries are in Rome this week for the annual meeting of the FAO Committee on Fisheries.


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