Are we approaching the end of fish? It’s been widely reported that at current fishing levels all commercial stocks of wild-caught fish will have collapsed by 2050. But there’s hope – New Dutch investment fund Aqua-Spark believes sustainable aquaculture will be a major growth industry of the coming decades. It perceives a need for the industry to increase its capacity by 35 percent by 2022, and a global market set to grow from $135 billion annually to $195 billion by 2019 alone. Given the imperative for this to be done in an environmentally sound way, the fund views sustainable aquaculture as a long-term investment, the returns of which will be more than just financial.
Are we any closer to finding a balance between the world’s growing demand for fish protein and the need to preserve breeding stocks to ensure the viability of our source? Around 46 percent of fish consumption worldwide now comes from farmed animals, and this is expected to surpass 50 percent as early as 2015. Aquaculture is our best hope for keeping fish on the table for the more than one billion people who currently depend on seafood for animal-sourced protein, but the industry needs to sharpen up its act after rightfully coming under fire for causing a host of environmental, public health and marine disease issues.
Aqua-Spark managing partners Mike Velings and Amy Novogratz met in 2010, on board the TED Mission Blue voyage to the Galapagos Islands with leading marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle. The trip opened their eyes to the urgency of the overfishing problems at hand, and they resolved to use their collective entrepreneurial skills to ensure that aquaculture could be developed to meet worldwide needs – not only in a timely manner, but also sustainably. The fund has already sourced 450 companies of interest and hopes to close its first major investment soon. Of its portfolio, the fund states: “Each investment is chosen for its potential to generate significant financial returns while also activating positive environmental and social outcomes.”
With a number of recent developments promising improvements in the sustainability of aquaculture, innovation and expertise are in ready supply. However, investment is needed to turn sustainable solutions into large-scale practical realities. As Velings and Novogratz state in a recent Washington Post article: “We’ve spent the past four years finding the innovators and technologies that will help us scale this industry the right way, before we reel in the last wild-caught fish from our oceans.”