A Broken Food Chain

According to a recent report published by the University of British Columbia in Canada, 90 percent of the global small fish catch—which includes anchovies, sardines and mackerel—is processed into fish meal and fish oil and used in animal feed. These forage fish are heavily exploited, since they form large, dense schools that are easy to spot and inexpensive to catch in large numbers.

Industries usurping these resources include aquaculture, fur producers and intensive agriculture production of poultry and pigs. Small forage fish are also used in the pet food industry, yet since there is no definitive percentage of use recorded, it could be even higher when compared to the industries listed above. 

The report voices concern for how this unsustainable use of the fish contributes to the present global overfishing problem and global food security threats. For many communities, especially in developing countries, forage fish provide an important source of nutrition. In some areas, this has placed the subsistence for local people in direct competition with the animal feed industry. Forage fish also play a vital role in the world’s marine ecosystems, as they transfer energy from the plankton to larger fish, marine mammals and sea birds.