By Álvaro Valle García Chief Aquaculture Engineering
Today we pose a question which people are asking more and more: why do we need fish farms?
It is calculated that in 2050 the world population will reach 9.6 billion people. This forecast means there will be an increase in demand for food, and in particular protein; and one of the main sources of protein will be fish. To contribute to obtaining it sustainably, at Derwent Group we believe that fish farms will be one of the major pillars.
Estimated global production reached 179 million tonnes in 2018 – 156 million tonnes from fishing and aquaculture directly for human consumption. Additionally, for the first time in history, in 2019 aquaculture production exceeded fishing, an important milestone, as it can be stated that in this area we are leaving our hunter-gatherer activity for cultivation in our own farms, bringing production close to points of consumption. These figures give us an idea of importance in absolute numbers, but if we examine relative importance, according to the FAO, aquatic products make up 17% of global animal product intake and 7% of all protein consumed. Aquatic products make up 20% of the average animal protein intake per capita for 3.3 billion people, and up to 50% in certain countries. This food offers high quality, easily digestible protein, and contains all essential amino acids. Additionally, aquatic foods contain essential fatty acid Omega 3 (EPA and DHA), vitamins and minerals. With these nutritional values, fish and other aquatic species play an important role in the correction of unbalanced diets.
The growing global demand for healthy, nutritious aquatic products is a challenge which can only be dealt with by combining aquaculture production with fishing – two activities which will continue hand in hand, at least in the coming decades. At Derwent Group, we work to reduce dependence on fishing and its impact on the environment each day, with the incorporation of technological, sustainable aquaculture production systems.
The increasing use of the implementation of increasingly sustainable aquaculture at the same time leads fishing to make a greater effort in the transformation toward an even more sustainable and transparent model. In this field, greater efficiency in the exploitation of fishing grounds and new technologies applied to fishing fleets have led to maximum levels of sustainable exploitation being reached for wild fishing resources. However, although we are in a time of historic records for fishing, the increase in demand for aquatic products has continued to drive the promotion of aquaculture for global supply of this food.
The progress of aquaculture in the last four decades reveals not only the vitality of this activity as a production technique, but also the capacity for innovation, employment and sustainability in using resources. The FAO considers aquaculture to contribute to the efficient use of natural resources, food security and economic development, with a limited and controllable impact on the environment.
Additionally, aquaculture (whether more technical, introducing aquaculture systems developed by Derwent Group; or more traditional) is a driver of economic development, which is contributing in a significant way in numerous countries to reducing poverty, by increasing the economic resources of families, promoting local and international trade, improving returns on the use of resources, and offering new employment opportunities.
In technical aspects, fish farms also offer great advantages such as exhaustive control of production and its traceability, including the absence of pathogens, thanks to recirculating aquaculture systems and the use of certified raw materials and juveniles.
For these reasons, at Derwent Group we believe that aquaculture will continue to experience significant growth in the near future, and that its production will be complemented by fishing, although to an ever smaller extent, to be able to maintain the demand for healthy products of sustainable origin.
Sources: FAO, Apromar, misPeces, Hatchery international.