Are we eating more fish than we know?

by: Andre Lopes

The GAIN project found that some of the most popular seafood in Europe have a higher consumption than reported in official statistics. The report, based on seafood consumption data from previous work and from retail sources was focused on ten European countries and a large number of seafood products.

In addition to demand data, new supply statistics were considered to include other sources of seafood, which include subsistence and illegal fishing. This showed that for cod, salmon, or tuna, consumption may be much higher than previously estimated.

The report states that salmon, the most consumed farmed aquatic product in the EU, has a consumption of 2.21 kg per capita, significantly higher than the 1.30 kg per capita estimates based on supply data. This means that each European consumer eats almost one extra kg each year of salmon unaccounted for in official statistics.

Similar numbers were determined for tuna, cod, trout, and other common fish products. Total consumption of seafood in Europe can be as much as 4.3 kg per capita for farmed products and 8.9 kg per capita for wild-caught products. This means that as much as one million metric tons per year of seafood can end up on consumers’ plates without ever being recorded in official statistics.

By the way, how much is the fish?*

By Cornelia Kreiss:

To produce a good seafood product according to ecological, welfare and human health aspects we also have to consider the economic side of the coin. The use of sustainable alternative feed, close monitoring of the production conditions or the valorisation of side-stream products is beneficial for a more sustainable production, but will also come at a cost. How high is this cost? Which production benefit or who (the consumer?) will compensate for these costs? What about the whole sector impact?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These are very important questions for farmers and the seafood industry in general, which we seek to answer within GAIN. In order to do this on farm-scale we use a so-called “typical farm approach” implemented by the agri benchmark network headed by the Thünen Institute in Germany. This is a micro-economic tool which allows to portray the typical production of a farmed species according to real costs, techniques and other inputs: all of it in great detail. In the end we can estimate, which market returns per kg fish should be achieved in order to stay (as) profitable (as before)!

Kreiss_Troutfarmer

Sustainable production methods themselves already benefit the farmer, resulting in better quality fish that needs less feed to grow to the same size, or achieving higher water quality which might also allow for higher stocking densities. However, such benefits do not always outweigh the full costs that adaptations towards sustainable production might involve. As long as follow-up costs of environmental impacts are not part of the market price (which is admittedly not an easy task to determine!), price differences are at the expense of sustainable products and need a transparent justification.

Originating from Germany, where public awareness and willingness to pay for more sustainable seafood products is higher than in other countries, I am convinced that a good market transparency is the way forward and I am excited to be part of this aim in combination with more sustainable seafood production within GAIN.

*The fish bought by the electro trashers band “Scooter” in the 1990’s and being the name giver for their song “How much is the fish”, cost 3.80 Deutsche Mark and supposedly lived for at least 18 years, which seems to be a quite good deal!