Fewer Anchovies Lead to More Expensive Salmon

Spend Matters welcomes a guest post from Mark Kozlowski, at Mintec.

When it comes to seafood consumption, the US is second only to China, consuming over 2 million metric tons of seafood per year, with approximately 90% of all seafood consumed in the US being imported. Half of that is produced through aquaculture. Workers fatten farmed fish on a high-protein diet of fishmeal in an attempt to replicate their natural diet.

Fishmeal is produced from whole small fish such as anchovies, which are considered less desirable for mass human consumption. Another major fishmeal component comes from whatever products are left over from the fish processing industry. The ingredients for the fishmeal are usually cooked, dried and ground to produce a brown powder or cake. Peru is the world’s largest producer of fishmeal, accounting for almost a third of global production.

Almost 75% of all fishmeal produced is used as a feed in the production of farmed fish, with approximately 20% of this going towards the production of salmon (after all, feed is half the cost of production). Salmon from aquaculture accounts for over two-thirds of all salmon production, with farmed Atlantic salmon making up nearly half of salmon that is consumed. Globally, Norway (33%) and Chile (31%) are the largest producers of farmed salmon.


The price of fishmeal has been increasing in the past few months as Peru has reduced its summer fishing quota for anchovies by over 50%. The reduction in the quota is due to a disruption of the nutrient-rich, cold-water Humboldt Current by mild El Niño conditions, causing a significant reduction in anchovy stocks from the levels seen in 2010 and 2011. The price has also been affected by increases in the cost of other feed meals such as soybeans, which are often used in animal and fish feeds instead of fishmeal.

With fish stocks down and the price of fishmeal rising, the price of cheap and cheerful farmed salmon may well be swimming off into the blue.

-Mark Kozlowski

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