The Washington DC based Earth Policy Institute, headed by well-known environmental and sustainable development advocate Lester R. Brown, has announced that global annual farmed fish production now exceeds global annual beef production. In addition, production of farmed fish is increasing at a significant rate while production of beef has levelled off.
EPI sees this as environmentally beneficial because fish produce protein more efficiently than cattle. They state that it takes 7 kilograms of grain to produce 1 kilogram of beef but less than 2 kilograms of grain to produce 1 kilogram of herbivorous fish such as carp, tilapia, and catfish.
GallonDaily finds the information very interesting but is not yet ready to join the cheering section for fish farming (aquaculture). Humans have thousands of years of experience raising cattle but only decades in large scale aquaculture. Many aquaculture projects have caused significant environmental and health problems. Escape of genetically modified and invasive fish presents risks to wild stocks. Much of the farmed fish in North America is salmon and other species which have poor overall feed conversion because they feed on fish protein.
The use of much greater quantities of fish in place of beef may well be part of a more sustainable future but there is a need to greatly expand research and technology development, as well as regulation, for fish farming if we are to ensure that serious problems do not arise from these activities.
EPI’s article Farmed Fish Production Overtakes Beef is at http://www.earth-policy.org/plan_b_updates/2013/update114
A chapter of one of Lester R. Brown’s books that discusses efficiency of feed conversion by various species is at http://www.earth-olicy.org/books/pb2/pb2ch9_ss4