Norwegian salmon farms gobble up fish (from coastal West Africa) that could feed millions in Africa: Blue Empire Report

Norwegian salmon farms are taking huge amounts of wild fish from West Africa, mining the food security of the region, according to a report from the U.K.-based NGO Feedback. The analysis comes as the industry faces a wave of public opposition after revelations of high mortality rates and the sale of fish deemed unfit for human consumption, along with accusations of antitrust violations by the European Commission.

The report, titled “Blue Empire,” was produced with other organizations including Greenpeace Africa and The West African Association for the Development of Artisanal Fishing and published in January. It quantifies the use of fishmeal and fish oil imported from Mauritania, Senegal and the Gambia in the production of feed for salmon farms in Norway, the world’s main producer of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar).

According to the report, in 2020, Norwegian salmon farms required almost 2 million metric tons of edible wild fish to produce fish oil intended for feeds that produced nearly 1.5 million metric tons of farmed salmon.

Up to 7% of these wild fish (123,000-144,000 metric tons) were small pelagic species caught along the coasts of West Africa, where they could have fed between 2.5 million and 4 million people, according to the report.

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Salmon is the beef of the seas!

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From the article:

“The Norwegian salmon farming industry, which is the biggest in the world, has an enormous feed footprint and a huge appetite for wild caught fish,” Natasha Hurley, director of campaigns at Feedback, told Mongabay.

Norway exports most of its farmed salmon: In 2023, the country exported 1.2 million metric tons, valued at $11.6 billion, with the majority going to Poland, France and the United States, according to the Norwegian Seafood Council, an industry marketing group. An increasing share of its exports goes to emerging markets, such as China, Hurley said....

According to FAO, small pelagic fish “contribute significantly” to the local economy and food security of this region, representing 90% of Mauritania’s total annual catches and 75% of the Gambia’s. FAO also reports that in the last decade, the stocks of round sardinella (Sardinella aurita) and Madeiran sardinella (S. maderensis) have been decreasing to an “alarming” state.

In Senegal, pelagic fish provide 65% of the population’s animal protein requirements, according to a 2022 study. The country, together with Mauritania, also supplies small pelagics to other West African countries, such as Ivory Coast, Mali and Nigeria. The same study estimates that in Senegal, fish consumption dropped by 50% between 2009 and 2018, driven by a reduction in the availability of small pelagic fish.

“Previously, we used to fish 12 months a year,” Babacar Mbodji, a young fisher from the village of Kayar, Senegal, told this reporter. “Now there is a fishing season … and then the big pirogues no longer go to the sea,” Mbodji said, referring to new rules to address the scarcity of fish.

In the past decade, the number of fishmeal and fish oil factories in West Africa has increased from 5 to 49, according to Feedback. These factories transform small pelagics into fishmeal and fish oil intended for export, with most fish oil from Mauritania, Senegal and the Gambia going to Norway, Denmark, Chile and France.

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