Dwindling wild stocks make cod one product where demand severely outstrips supply. A successful start for commercial cod farming in the UK could redress the balance and also throw a lifeline to faltering salmon farmers.
The first ever batch of commercially farmed cod will be harvested in the Shetlands on Tuesday. With stocks of wild cod continuing to fall after decades of over-fishing, demand now outstrips supply. Farming has become the only way to increase production, as the EU has imposed a drastic cut to fishing quotas in order to preserve fish stocks.
However, so far all attempts at commercial cod farming have been stalled by technical problems. One setback was the discovery that large concentrations of codlings in confined spaces have a tendency to turn to cannibalism. This drastically reduces the number of cod produced and renders the process – not to mention a substantial number of codlings – unviable.
However, scientists recently discovered a solution to this problem, and the first batch of 2kg cod has now been sold to restaurants in the US. Eventually, the Johnson family who own the farm hope to supply the UK. If the scheme is successful, and there is every indication that it will be given the unsatisfied demand for cod, this could revolutionise fish farming.
The European fish farming industry centres on the production of salmon. However, prices have been falling due to overproduction, supermarkets forcing the prices down and competition from Chilean salmon farms. Farmed salmon also receives an increasingly bad press due to the processes involved in intensive fish farming.
Salmon is traditionally viewed as a healthy food product, but its reputation has been somewhat tarnished by farming. The farmed fish contains up to 70% more fat than the wild one, and no other livestock is dosed with such high concentrations of antibiotics. If large-scale cod farming takes off, the Atlantic salmon could lose its place on the plate of increasingly health-conscious consumers.
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