Froehlich, Halley; Sand Jacobsen, Nis; Essington, Timothy E.; Clavelle, Tyler; Halpern, Benjamin S. 2018. Avoiding the ecological limits of forage fish for fed aquaculture. Nature Sustainability. (Abstract)
Aquaculture is supporting demand and surpassing wild-caught seafood. Yet, most fed aquaculture species (finfish and crustacea) rely on wild-captured forage fish for essential fatty acids and micronutrients, an important but limited resource. As the fastest growing food sector in the world, fed aquaculture demand will eventually surpass ecological supply of forage fish, but when and how best to avoid this ecological boundary is unclear. Using global production data, feed use trends, and human consumption patterns, we show how combined actions of fisheries reform, reduced feed use by non-carnivorous aquaculture and agricultural species, and greater consistent inclusion of fish by-products in China-based production can circumvent forage fish limits by mid-century. However, we also demonstrate that the efficacies of such actions are diminished if global diets shift to more seafood-heavy (that is, pescatarian) diets and are further constrained by possible ecosystem-based fisheries regulations in the future. Long-term, nutrient-equivalent alternative feed sources are essential for more rapid and certain aquaculture sustainability.