Big Fishes of the industry: Companies that catch fish sustainably
Aquaculture is one of the fastest growing forms of food production in the world and the fastest growing sector in the livestock industry. According to the latest report from FAO, the global fish production achieved 178.5 million tonnes in 2018, representing a year-on-year growth (1).
Facing threats of overfishing, ocean warming and toxic wastes, aquaculture companies are looking to increase economic, environmental and social sustainability. In this article we will see how several forward-thinking companies – from global leaders to small local companies – are catching fishes in a sustainable way.
Maruha Nichiro (Japan)
As Japan is a country with limited agronomic and livestock-raising potential, marine products are an indispensable source of food for the large population. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in 2018 the annual per capita consumption of fish in Japan was 23.9 kilograms (2).
Maruha Nichiro is a Japan-based holding company principally engaged in fishing and marine product business, well acknowledged as one of the world’s largest fishing companies (3) as well as a company with a sustainable approach to fishing. In 2016, after 30 years of unsuccessful experiments, Maruha Nichiro finally achieved the first full-scale commercial shipping of egg-to-harvest tuna (4). Started as a scientific experiment to save bluefin tuna from extinction, the tuna farming became a significant business unit for the company (5).
Maruha Nichiro: A 30-year journey to save bluefin tuna.
A pioneer in egg-to-harvest bluefin tuna cultivation, Maruha Nichiro was also first in the world company that obtained Aquaculture Stewardship Council certification for its great amberjack farm in July 2019 (4).
In 2018 total fisheries production in Norway (3.6 million tonnes of live weight) was about 80% of that of the EU-27 as a whole (6). No surprise as Norway is a nation famed for its seafood and fisheries, with an extensive coastline, and plentiful fjords and lakes. It is the leading supplier of seafood in Europe and the second largest exporter in the world, supplying 140 countries (7).
Eurostat. Fishery statistics. Statistics explained. 2020.
Mowi is one of the world’s largest seafood companies from Norway, and specifically is the world’s largest producer of Atlantic Salmon with more than 20% of global market share (8). Moreover, the company has been ranked as the world’s most sustainable protein producer by the FAIRR Initiative (9).
The key guiding principles that the company operates is Planet, Product, People and Profit. To ensure these principles, the company has a far-going Mowi 4.0 digital strategy based on the use of technologies through the whole production cycle (Smart Farming, Smart Operations and Customer Interactions). In 2020 this strategy shows great results, among them (9):
- 100% sustainable sourced feed (only 0.68 kg of wild fish to produce 1 kg of Atlantic salmon);
- avoided nearly 2 000 tonnes of virgin plastic use;
- reused 124 tons of plastic equipment; recycled 15 639 tons of packaging and farming equipment.
Bluehouse Salmon (Norway-USA)
Although Norwegian salmon is very popular around the world, the carbon footprint of transporting the fish by air to other countries, notably the US, is what made the environmental cost of it quite high. Thus, in 2020 the Norwegian company Atlantic Sapphire launched Bluehouse Salmon in the unique ecology of Homestead, Florida (10).
Bluehouse is a land-based closed-loop system that combines fish farming onshore with pure aquifer water free of microplastics with other aquaculture farming techniques excluding use of antibiotics and hormones. While traditional sea-based fish farming requires constant transportation to and from multiple locations before protein lands on consumer plates, salmon from Bluehouse are born, raised, and processed in one place (11).
Apollo Aquaculture Group (Singapore)
Another great example of modern technologies in fishing business is Apollo Aquaculture Group from Singapore. A signature of the company's innovation, the ‘AquaDeck’ technology was conceptualised for the vertical stacking of ornamental fish tanks indoors, on land (12).
Some of the benefits of Apollo’s multi-tier system:
- High efficiency in recycling water: Recirculation system uses less water, maintains consistent water quality, and reduces the discharge of wastewater.
- Optimised for high stocking density and biological loading: Multi-tier tanks are energy efficient and cost effective.
- Compartmentalised system: Can contain and isolate disease outbreak and reduce losses.
- Use of microbes, ozone, and nano-technology in fish health management: Reduces dependency on antibiotics and use of chemicals.
- Barcode tracking system: Enables fish health traceability and inventory control.
- FAO. 2020. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020. Sustainability in action. Rome. Available at: http://www.fao.org/3/ca9229en/ca9229en.pdf
- Fish No Longer the Main Dish in Japan? Nippon. July 20, 2020. Available at: https://www.nippon.com/en/japan-data/h00767/
- Global Fishing Industry Factsheet 2020: Top 10 Largest Fishing Companies in the World. BizVibe. March 17, 2021. Available at: https://blog.bizvibe.com/blog/largest-fishing-companies-wordwide
- Bluefin Tuna. Reel Stories. Maruha Nichiro. Available at: https://www.maruha-nichiro.com/media/reel_stories/bluefin_tuna.html
- Matt Craze “Maruha Nichiro bets big on bluefin tuna farming”. Undercurrent News. March 16, 2020. Available at: https://www.undercurrentnews.com/2020/03/16/maruha-nichiro-bets-big-on-bluefin-tuna-farming/
- Eurostat. Fishery statistics. Statistics explained. 2020. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/pdfscache/1196.pdf
- Like Slater “From water to plate: How Norway leads the way in sustainable fishery”. Norwegian Arts. Available at: https://norwegianarts.org.uk/from-water-to-plate-how-norway-leads-the-way-in-sustainable-fishery/
- 5-World’s Biggest Fishing Companies in 2020. The Science Agriculture. Available at: https://scienceagri.com/5-biggest-fishing-companies-in-2020/
- Mowi Integrated Annual Report. 2020. Available at: https://corpsite.azureedge.net/corpsite/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Mowi_Integrated_Annual_Report_2020.pdf
- Florence Fabricant “Atlantic Salmon With a Smaller Carbon Footprint”. The New York Times. April 5, 2021. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/05/dining/atlantic-salmon.html
- Bluehouse Salmon. FAQ. Available at: https://bluehousesalmon.com/faq/
- Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore. Apollo aquaculture group: marrying heritage and technology. Available at: https://www.sfa.gov.sg/food-for-thought/article/detail/marrying-heritage-and-technology
Illustration: Hanson Lu/Unsplash.com
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