Tomorrow will see the Netflix release of the documentary Seaspiracy, from the same creators of Cowspiracy. In recent years there has been growing public concern about the brutality to animals as well as the environmental impact caused by the livestock industry. However, concern for marine wildlife has been far less noticeable, and the fishing industry – which generates more than $160 billion a year – remains among the most lucrative in the world.
What doesn’t tend to resonate much in consumers’ consciousness is what happens in the fishing industry at multiple levels. No wonder, since that world – the deep sea – feels so far away from our own, as if it were another planet. Indifference towards these species facilitates the propagation of myths that need to be busted. First, although we tend to have little empathy for fish, there is a wealth of scientific evidence to prove that they are far more sentient than we realise.
However, times and perceptions are gradually changing.
“Fortunately, in recent times, a growing aquatic animal welfare movement has emerged to advocate for these voiceless animals,”
says Christine Xu, head of strategic initiatives at the Aquatic Life Institute, an NGO that has launched the first aquatic animal welfare alliance, modelled on the Open Wing Alliance.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, however, 75% of the world’s fish stocks are still overfished.
In addition, hundreds of thousands of dolphins, sharks, sea turtles and whales die every year because they get caught in fishing nets. In addition, so-called “ghost nets”, those fishing nets that have been lost or abandoned in the ocean, make up 10 per cent of the plastic debris in the sea. Between 500,000 and 1 million tonnes of it end up in the ocean every year. Meanwhile, there has been documented evidence showing that “sustainable fishing” labels are unreliable, with much lack of transparency in the way the industry reports its contribution to sustainability.
However, change is taking place. The emerging plant-based industry is offering a solution for those who love the taste of animal-based products, and the rise of the plant-based seafood revolution has already begun. According to Future Market Insights, the plant-based seafood market is forecast to grow by 28.0% annually during the period 2020 to 2030.
Recently vegconomist published a report on the progress of plant-based seafood companies around the world, including Gathered Foods, the maker of Good Catch plant-based tuna, which recently announced that its online shop has expanded to offer its full portfolio DTC. Good Catch plant-based seafood products are now available in three foodservice providers across the US: Veggie Grill, Whole Foods, and Bareburger.
Prime Roots recently launched vegan lobster ravioli, and Quorn has introduced fishless scampi in the UK. The Plant Based Seafood Co launched its award-winning Mind Blown range into retail, and F1 star Lewis Hamilton launched a vegan fish filet burger to compete with McDonald’s.
There is no doubt that replacing traditional seafood with plant-based seafood has the potential to save countless animals that reside under the sea, as well as the sea itself, the largest and deepest ecosystem on the planet.