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A trawler off the coast of Kerala
Kerala, India

Photo essay: Fish farms feeding harmful fishing practices

Every year billions of fish are caught from the sea, dried, pressed and ground to make fishmeal and oil. These products are then used as feed by the aquaculture industry to cultivate seafood for human consumption. Nearly half of all fish eaten globally today come from such seafood farms, and this share is expected to grow to 60 percent by 2030.

Fishing for Catastrophe, a report published by the Netherlands-based Changing Markets Foundation in October last year, shows how the $362-billion aquaculture industry is wreaking havoc on natural fish stocks, destroying marine ecosystems and disrupting traditional livelihoods, in addition to undermining the food security of vulnerable communities.

The report — based on findings from India, Vietnam and Gambia — found that 69 percent of the fishmeal and 75 percent of the fish oil produced in 2016 were used for seafood farming globally. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 33 percent of marine stock is fished in biologically unsustainable ways. With governmental assistance, fishing vessels are now able to fish farther, longer and with greater intensity. The crisis brewing underwater, though, is yet to raise a stink on shore.

Full crew on a fishing trawler

 India is one of the world's leading aquaculture producers thanks to its 7,517-kilometer coastline. According to the National Fisheries Development Board, India exports more than 50 varieties of fish -- roughly 1,05 million tonnes -- to 75 countries.

Men on a trawler

Researchers claim that the growing demand for fishmeal and oil has led to overfishing and hastened the decline of natural fish stocks in India.

Wild fish

Billions of edible fish caugh in the wild each year are diverted from human consumption to feed the fish farms of the aquaculture industry.

Pile of fish

If a 10-day fishing expedition in the past yielded roughtly 10 tonnes of trash fish -- varieties with little market value -- the catch has now dropped to 500-900 kg.

Men with a fish haul

In June last year media outlets reported how the drastic decline in sardines has left Kerala's fishermen in a crisis and affected food security in the region.

Morning rush as Kochi's fishing harbor

The morning rush at places like Cochin Fisheries Harbor (pictured above) shows how the growing demand for marine fish is leading to unsustainble fishing practices.

Tanmoy Bhaduri is a Kolkata-based independent photojournalist. This photo essay was developed as part of a workshop in Kochi supported by Internews' Earth Journalism Network.

Banner image: A trawling vessel ventures deep into the Arabian Sea. Stocks of fish, such as sardines, traditionally used for fishmeal, have thinned. New varieties are now appearing in catches, suggesting changes in the marine ecosystem.