Demand for meat decimating South American fish populations

Freshly caught anchovies

An investigation has revealed the impact livestock farming is having on fish populations and the marine environment off the coast of Peru and elsewhere in the southern Pacific.

As demand for meat and fish grows across the world, the trade in fishmeal – a commercial product made from processed fish meat, bones and offal – is booming. It is a major component in feed used for livestock and farmed fish.

Now the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has uncovered widespread fraud and overfishing in the waters off Peru, with companies cheating on their quotas.

With its “seine” boats, Peru has the largest commercial fishing fleet in the world geared towards the exploitation of a single species – Peruvian anchovy – which is processed to produced oil and fishmeal for bird- and fish-farming.

A 2008 investigation by the Ecologist found that Peruvian fishmeal was being used in Scottish salmon farms, highlighting the global impact of the industry.

Peru’s annual export of more than a million tonnes of fish to Asia is worth more than $1.6 billion, with most of that catch converted into feed for pigs and fish.

The ICIJ says overfishing off Peru and Chile is partly the fault of European and Asian fleets, which have exhausted their own territorial waters and are pushing south.

Read the ICIJ report

Watch the 2008 Ecologist Film Unit report into how Scottish salmon is linked to overfishing in Peru.

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