Fish and Fishing

The Price of Industrial Fishing and Fish Farms

Wild fish populations may be close to collapsing.
Fishing has been part of the European way of life for centuries, providing food and employment for generations. Unfortunately, private interests have publicly compared access to fish to the stock market and are treating it like an investment that can be bought and sold for personal profit.

Industrial fishing run by multinational corporations threatens both our fish and the people who rely on them. The industry is increasingly concentrated in the hands of big companies further away from our communities, even though fishing owned and controlled by local people is often the most sustainable.

It is scientifically difficult to set a sustainable level for fishing. Some studies suggest some fish stocks are close to collapse, but some fishers say their catches show clear signs of recovery and the science is not responsive enough to be accurate, so politics take over. Yet even when the data are clear, as with the highly threatened bluefin tuna, the EU’s politicians continue to put off protecting them.

Did You Know?
EU citizens pay a high cost for fishing through food prices, taxes to fund subsidies that support the biggest players in the fish industry and damage to our environment.

These costs are not inevitable if we:

  • Stop confusing high level economic “efficiency” (profits for a few) with what is good for fish, fishers nd the rest of us.
  • Learn to live alongside oceans that are thriving and robust in their own right rather than seeing them as a bottomless larder we somehow have a “right” to exploit.
  • Support good rules and effective enforcement. If voluntary industry agreements were enough our oceans would not be in the situation they are now.
What Food & Water Europe Wants
Food & Water Europe wants fishing to be properly organised and regulated over the long term, without fish farms damaging the coasts that our communities depend on, so that fish can continue to be enjoyable and profitable for generations to come.

Since there aren’t enough wild fish to meet the voracious requirements of a wasteful market, many promote fish farms as a “green” replacement. Fish farms may be lucrative for the companies running them, but serious ethical and economic concerns hang over the industry including:

  • High levels waste and drugs flowing into and damaging habitats.
  • Low animal welfare, including high levels of disease.
  • High demand for fish feed adds to pressure on wild populations. Some suggest using GM soya for fish farming, but this only compounds the problems.
  • Escaped farmed fish outcompete wild fish and spread disease.

Industrial fish farming just repeats the unacceptable processes of land-based factory meat farms that many already reject. This means farmed fish can’t legitimately be called “organic” either. Learn more about organic aquaculture certification.

Many claim fish farming provides good, “green” jobs, but this is far from clear since jobs often don’t last as farms increase their “efficiency”.