Small oily fish like anchovy, herring and menhaden are the main target of the industrial fishmeal and oil fisheries. Once captured the fish are ground into feed for fertilizers and animal feed, from beef and chicken to salmon and tilapia.
Although many of the fish caught by the fishmeal industry are considered inedible by human standards, these small schooling fish are the cornerstone of ocean food webs, providing seabirds, marine mammals and larger pelagic fish like tuna the important protein they need to survive.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 20.8 million tons of fish were caught to produce fishmeal and fish oil in 2008, and forecasters estimate that the global aquaculture feed market with reach 96.27 million tons by 2022 due in large part to the growing aquaculture industry in China.
This outlook for food security and ocean health has led to a novel “American Idol-style” contest to develop alternative aquafeeds to support this growing demand.