Aquaculture–the farming of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants–accounts for half of the seafood consumed around the world. While that percentage is expected to grow, the environmental impact of fish farms has the potential to grow exponentially faster.
Fish that escape these farms can “pollute” the gene pools of wild fish. Disease and parasites easily migrate between farms and wild fish. Uneaten food and fish waste from the farms pollute the water column as well as the ocean floor. Vast quantities of forage fish, herring, anchovies and other small fish are removed from the ocean food chain to feed farmed fish.
Growing public awareness of how aquaculture facilities degrade the environment has led to efforts by many producers and retailers to mitigate these environmental impacts. Pew’s Marine Finfish Aquaculture Standards Project has collaborated with the University of Victoria and the Lenfest Ocean Program in the development of a scientific methodology that measures how these farms impact their surroundings.
The project is also supporting research to compare the performance of various ecolabeling efforts for aquaculture and to develop a tool for evaluating the performance of individual fish farms, so that consumers and retailers can make educated seafood sourcing decisions.
Using objective and quantitative information about the environmental effects of marine fish farming, the Aquaculture Standards Project is identifying practical ways to improve the environmental sustainability of the global seafood supply.