Salmon Aquafeeds: aspirational futures and commonplace extractions

Authors: Sarah Martin*, Memorial University, Charles Mather*, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Topics: Food Systems, Cultural and Political Ecology, Marine and Coastal Resources
Keywords: Aquafeed, alternatives, extraction, exploitation, enclosure
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores how the aquafeed sector is responding to a range of socio-ecological constraints on pelagic fish, the traditional raw material for salmon aquafeed. The explosive growth and extraordinary profits of industrial farmed salmon production is founded on manufactured aquafeed, which have traditionally included pelagic fish, but these fish are under pressure from climate change, over-fishing and the competing demands to direct consumption to humans. In response, the aquafeed sector is exploring a wide range of substitutes, particularly for fish oil, which are so important for salmon’s growth and for the humans seeking promised nutrients such as Omega 3s. We examine the recent proposed alternatives to traditional sources of aquafeed through technological innovations such as Omega 3 analogues derived form GMO canola and industrially raised insects. At the same time, we illuminate how aquafeed continues to rely on and extract marine ingredients. Our argument is that there are significant limits to ‘novel’ aquafeeds in terms of the scale of production, substitutability, and palatability. Given these challenges, our focus is on how the search for novel aquafeeds is a thin cover of the ongoing, commonplace work of exploiting marine sources. Our analysis casts doubt on agri-food tech's ability to easily find analogues to fish oil, and we point to ongoing processes that are more familiar in the history of capitalism - extraction, enclosure and exploitation.

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