Towards Understanding the Impacts of the Pet Food Industry on World Fish and Seafood Supplies


The status of wild capture fisheries has induced many fisheries and conservation scientists to express concerns about the concept of using forage fish after reduction to fishmeal and fish oil, as feed for farmed animals, particularly in aquaculture. However, a very large quantity of forage fish is being also used untransformed (fresh or frozen) globally for other purposes, such as the pet food industry. So far, no attempts have been made to estimate this quantum, and have been omitted in previous fishmeal and fish oil exploitation surveys. On the basis of recently released data on the Australian importation of fresh or frozen fish for the canned cat food industry, here we show that the estimated amount of raw fishery products directly utilized by the cat food industry equates to 2.48 million metric tonnes per year. This estimate, plus the previously reported global fishmeal consumption for the production of dry pet food suggest that 13.5% of the total 39.0 million tonnes of wild caught forage fish is used for purposes other than human food production. This study attempts to bring forth information on the direct use of fresh or frozen forage fish in the pet food sector that appears to have received little attention to this date and that needs to be considered in the global debate on the ethical nature of current practices on the use of forage fish, a limited biological resource.

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Giovanni M. Turchini’s contribution to this study was made whilst holding an APD Discovery, Post Doctoral Fellowship from the Australian Research Council (ARC) for the project DP0772271 and the latter support is gratefully acknowledged. The authors also wish to thank the promoters and the organizers of the FAO expert workshop “Use of Wild Fish and/or Other Aquatic Species to Feed Cultured Fish and its Implications to Food Security and Poverty Alleviation” held in Kochi, India, 16–18 November 2007, for the remarkable work implemented and the significant effort spent towards a more ethical use of wild caught fish, and an anonymous reviewer for calling our attention to the Alder and Pauly Report.

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Correspondence to Giovanni M. Turchini.

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De Silva, S.S., Turchini, G.M. Towards Understanding the Impacts of the Pet Food Industry on World Fish and Seafood Supplies. J Agric Environ Ethics 21, 459–467 (2008).

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  • Aquaculture
  • Forage fish
  • Low valued fish
  • Pet food industry
  • Trash fish