Farm-raised fish and shrimp eat other wild fish, which is leading to overfishing and damage to marine ecosystems. Insect- and bacteria-based alternatives just might turn the tide.

For the first time in history, humans are poised to harvest more fish and seafood from farms than they catch in the wild.

This milestone, expected within two years, would help keep the oceans from being overfished except for one issue: Those farmed fish eat wild fish.

Around 12% of the world’s wild whole-fish catch goes to feed fish and aquatic creatures like shrimp raised on farms, according to The Marine Ingredients Organization, a trade group for the international fish feed industry. Captive salmon and shrimp are fed fishmeal composed of smaller fish like sardines and anchovies, which themselves are being overfished in some parts of the world, damaging marine ecosystems and reducing an important food source for locals.

As aquaculture has expanded over the past few decades, scientists have tried to replace fishmeal with plant-based feeds, including soy. But these efforts have had only limited success for carnivorous fish like salmon, which rely on protein-dense fishmeal to reach market weight quickly. Salmon and other species also rely on fish oil—a crucial feed ingredient derived from wild-caught fish—to absorb the omega-3 fatty acids that consumers want. The result is a fish-feed bottleneck that could slow the expansion of global aquaculture.

To solve the problem, teams of scientists and entrepreneurs are developing fish-free fish food from bacteria and insects, along with replacements to fish oil derived from algae and genetically modified canola. They are attracting funding from major investors like BP PLC and Temasek, Singapore’s national investment vehicle.  Read the article.

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