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Fish farming 'unfairly branded on feed issue'
Published:  22 October, 2012

AQUACULTURE has unfairly become the villain of marine environmental movements, a leading observers on the industry has suggested.

Callander McDowell, a strategic planning and marketing organisation for the aquaculture industry, compares the attitude towards petfood where one advertisement openly and proudly advertises the fact that certain cat products contain fish such as salmon and tuna (along with chicken) and that towards fish farming where fish are used to produce fish.

Callander McDowell said: "This advert is interesting because it places such emphasis on the inclusion of animal protein in cat food at a time when the salmon farming industry is being placed under increasing pressure to reduce the animal protein content of its feeds and to replace them with vegetable proteins.

"The rationale for this change has nothing to do with nutritional needs of the salmon but rather that there is increased pressure from the environmental lobby to cut the amount of forage fish used in aquaculture. This is despite the fact that salmon in the wild naturally feed on small fish, not vegetables.  By comparison, whilst cats may eat protein from terrestrial animals, they don’t seem to make a habit of fishing for their meals, other than if there is a convenient goldfish bowl in the home."

 The organisation adds: "It seems that we have got our perspective very wrong. Aquaculture has become the villain of marine environmental movements but whilst it seems that it is abhorrent to feed fish to fish, it is perfectly acceptable to feed pet cats with high levels of fish protein, even selecting specific fish for different meal occasions.

"We, at Callander McDowell, have written previously, that pet cats seem to have a much wider repertoire of fish consumption than any member of the public. Of course, we wouldn’t want our pet cats to be deprived so it is not an issue to feed them as much fish as they like, even though conservationists claim that we are already overfishing commercial stocks for our own demand. Surely, a bit extra for our pet animals cannot be a problem.

 "Unfortunately, that bit extra is an issue. According to Paul Greenberg, writing in the New York Times, ten per cent of forage fish is destined for use in the pet food industry. A further 24 per cent goes for pig production and another 22% goes to the poultry industry. Mr Greenberg says that whilst salmon naturally eat other fish, terrestrial livestock and pet cats eat them because we have deemed it commercially expedient."

Callander McDowell asks, if forage fish are such an issue why it is the environmental movement is not fighting for an end to the use of fish in land animal feeds instead of directing all its efforts at salmon (and prawn) farming. Mr Greenberg asks, is it not time that land-based animals stick to land grown feed. Mr Greenberg has a point.

"The problem is that the environmental lobby find attacking aquaculture an easy target because there is a lack of connection with the public. No-one is that bothered if the environmentalists blame aquaculture for the demise of forage fish but if the environmentalists turned their attention to pet cats there would be uproar. Their unwillingness to address the issue of cat food means that feeding forage fish to pets has become acceptable whilst those who feed the fish to other fish are now perceived to be the villains."

The environmental lobby, it argues, has even capitalised on this image of acceptability of the pet cat as WWF Canada have used a cute pet cat as the figurehead of their campaign to promote sustainable seafood. The cat in question has been given the name and title Norman: Eco Warrior. The problem is not such much eco warrior but rather undercover agent.

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