U.S. Department of Agriculture Official Spreads False Claims on Aquaculture and Menhaden Stock Health, Saving Seafood said
A recent newspaper column from a top public relations official at the Agricultural Research Service falsely made the claim that the use of plant-based fish feed in aquaculture is much more environmentally friendly than fishmeal, despite the scientific data proving otherwise and views of the agency's own scientists. The column also inaccurately argued that menhaden, one of the primary sources of fishmeal, is in danger of being overfished, the website "Saving Seafood" said.
According to the website, the December 6 “Everybody's Science” column from Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Director of Information Sandy Miller Hays published in Chicago's Southwest News-Herald raises the specter of U.S. government officials making industry damaging claims in the media that are not backed by scientific fact. In the piece - which focused on touting the aquaculture science advances spearheaded by ARS, the Agriculture Department's research arm – are these claims:
“ARS researchers in Idaho have been working on making fish feeds that don't rely on fishmeal, which is good news for several reasons. For one thing, the fishmeal typically comes from small, bony fish species such as menhaden, and the growing worldwide demand for seafood (and thus for the fishmeal that's a big component of the commercial fish feed) has put menhaden and other such fish in danger of being overfished. A fish feed based on an easily renewable resource such as barley concentrate is much more environmentally friendly than depleting the ocean's aquatic population.”
“The fishmeal-free, vegetable-based trout feeds that have been developed by the ARS scientists in Idaho result in fish growth that's every bit as impressive as the rates obtained with current industry-standard diets that contain high levels of fishmeal. And the fish waste — which is a major source of phosphorus and nitrogen pollutants — is firmer, which means it settles out of the water system more quickly, making it easier to maintain high water quality. Plus, the researchers say the fish that eat the vegetable-based feeds actually have better fin condition!”
Many of the claims are not based in fact, such as that plant-based feed for aquaculture are significantly more environmentally friendly than fishmeal-based diets and that fishmeal stocks are facing depletion. Another is built on the false premise that fishmeal-based diets for aquaculture are inherently inferior to plant-based diets.
Ignored in the piece is the fact that fish oil culled from the same fish that are used to produce fishmeal is needed for any plant-based aquaculture feed regime. Without it, these long chain omega-3 fatty acids, which are well recognized as important contributors to a healthy human diet, would not be produced. Fishmeal also provides those omega-3 and other nutrients, which are also essential to the healthy development of trout and other farm-raised fish. [Source: Saving Seafood - read the complete article here]