Wild groundfish harvests to exceed all major farmed species in 2012 says Groundfish Forum
SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton - Oct 14, 2011
It's time to change the narrative.
For years, environmentalists have been claiming that overfishing would lead to a disastrous collapse of groundfish species. This led to absurd claims, now thoroughly discredited, that if fisheries followed their current course, by 2048 commercial fish species would be extinct, and we would be eating jellyfish.
These outrageous claims led to research suggesting a different view: successful fishery management could in fact maintain healthy fish stocks and prevent overfishing.
At the recently concluded Groundfish Forum in Barcelona Spain, figures were placed on the table showing how dramatic a recovery has been made in global groundfish stocks.
In most cases, the wild stocks are improving because they are under effective fisheries management and enforcement. This is exactly the outcome predicted by scientists like Ray Hillborn of the University of Washington, who suggested that effective regulation and fish management practices were the key to sustainability, not a halt to fishing.
The second narrative that has gained credibility is that because of the collapse of wild fish stocks, farmed fish were essential to maintain supply. In 2009, total production of major farmed species: Salmon, Tilapia, Catfish/Pangasius, and trout exceeded the global catch of groundfish by around 350,000 tons, or 3% of total supply of all farmed species, and all groundfish.
Many assumed, since groundfish stocks had collapsed, that we had crossed a threshold and in the future, aquaculture fin fish would become more and more dominant over wild caught groundfish.
It is not happening. Over the past four years, the resurgence in wild fish stocks around the world has led to a dramatic reversal. In 2012, based on forecasts from the groundfish forum, global catches of groundfish will exceed all farmed fin fish by 475,000 tons, or 3.5% of the total combined tonnage.
The chart below illustrates the change in the relative harvests of wild groundfish and aquaculture species:
Chart: Wild capture Groundfish is growing faster than global aquaculture finfish. Source: SeafoodDatasearch and Groundfish Forum
In 2011 and again in 2012, global whitefish landings will exceed all aquaculture finfish production by a substantial margin.
Totals for individual species tell the same story. Alaska pollock is now more abundant than tilapia; and cod (Atlantic and Pacific) is almost as abundant as farmed salmon.
The table below illustrates the totals for individual species over the past four years.
Chart: Alaska pollock has overtaken tilapia in total supply, cod is nearly equal to the total global supply of farmed Atlantic salmon. Source SeafoodDatasearch and Groundfish Forum.
Some of the highlights of the 2012 forecasts include:
Atlantic Cod 1.1 million tons, based on increases in the Barents Sea, the EU, and Iceland.
Alaska Pollock: 2.995 million metric tons, up 23% since 2009. This forecast assumes no increase in Russian landings, despite the recent announcement that Russian quotas for pollock will increase 17% in 2012, so this forecast may be conservative.
In the hake and hoki complex, every fishing area is experiencing an increase. That includes US and Canadian whiting, Namibian and South African Hake, South American hakes, and New Zealand Hoki.
Meanwhile, Groundfish Forum estimates for farmed fish show some increases, but some declines as well.
For example, Tilapia production is expected to increase only 3%, mainly due to higher production in China. However, in recent years, weather issues have limited tilapia growth in China, and there are more recent reports of some tilapia farmers shifting to shrimp production as they see it as more profitable.
Pangasius / Catfish is expected to decline. The GF is forecasting a 4% decline in pangasius and catfish production, based largely on reductions from Vietnam. Problems have plagued Vietnamese producers of pangasius, and many farmers have not been able to get bank loans or credit. Most factories in Vietnam are short of raw materials. In 2009 the FAO estimate for Vietnam was 1.05 million tons, but totals have been declining, and in 2012, the Forum is projecting a harvest of around 850 thousand tons.
Atlantic Salmon: Production for salmon is ramping up as Chile is forecast to add 90,000 tons and Norway is forecast to add 70,000 tons. Total Atlantic salmon production is expected to increase 11% to 1.740 million tons.
Overall, this is an extremely positive forecast for fish supplies in 2012, and confirms our article of October 13, 2011 that highlighted the increase in quotas being announced in many areas around the world.
Table summarizing 2012 Forecasts from the Groundfish Forum. Source: Groundfish Forum.
No more should the industry allow a media narrative of declining groundfish and continuous overfishing to drive public debate. The wild capture industry is healthy, is looking at long term increases, and fish supplies will be higher as a result in 2012.
What about the future? Obviously this forecast shows that fish stocks are returning to levels that existed in the past. It does not mean that groundfish stocks will improve indefinitely. There is a carrying capacity for global whitefish stocks that is likely somewhat less than the 10 to 12 million tons that were harvested during the peak times in the 1980's. Nevertheless, prospects for global maximum sustainable yield for groundfish may in fact be realistic, and as fisheries reach this level there is likely room for a sustainable groundfish harvest at levels even higher than reported for 2012.
This article first appeared in Seafood News on Friday, Oct 14, 2011. To get regular news stories from us, please subscribe using the subscribe tab, or sign up for our free news headlines.