Global fish consumption is on the increase. Between 2011 and 2016, worldwide consumption rose from 154 million tons to 170,9 million tons, putting pressure on already depleted fishing stocks in many parts of the ocean.
Much of this increase in consumption has come as a result of massive population growth over recent decades, which has seen the world’s population rise from around 3 billion in 1960, to 7.7 billion today. This rate of growth also shows no sign of slowing down. According to the UN, the current world population is anticipated to reach 8.6 billion by 2030, and a staggering 11.2 billion by 2050.
There are a number of factors that make Dyneema® perfect for the rigors of large-scale aquafarming. Firstly, it is much stronger and lighter than nylon, meaning that nets made with Dyneema® are approximately only a third of the weight of their nylon equivalents, while remaining strong and durable. This unique strength to weight ratio ensures that nets last much longer than the alternatives, while remaining much easier and safer to handle.
Nets made with Dyneema® are strong and have excellent bite resistance – making it much harder for predators like seals and turtles to damage and enter the cages, and for farmed fish to bite their way out. They are also easier to maintain – particularly in the case of larger cages, where the lightweight nature and natural buoyancy of Dyneema® fibers allows for easier handling. Their smaller diameter also means that they have approximately 30% less surface area, making it more difficult for fouling organisms to cling to the nets. All this means that the ongoing operational costs are much lower.
Nets made with Dyneema® are also better for the environment, as (per weight) they require less antifouling (required to prevent the buildup of microorganisms) than nylon nets. Furthermore, due to this lower solidity, the water flow in the cage is better, which results in higher oxygen levels. This creates a healthier environment for the fish. Ultimately, nets made with Dyneema® support sustainable fish production techniques – optimizing output while remaining better for the environment.
In many parts of the world, aquaculture is already playing a central role in getting fish to the table. Not only does it allow for a greater number of fish to be produced, it can reduce fishing pressure on wild stocks. The FAO has reported that aquaculture was responsible for 46.8% of the global fish supply in 2016, up from just 25.7% in 2000. However, to meet future demand, and to keep the practice sustainable, new approaches to aquaculture are required.
A major trend in the aquaculture industry is towards larger cage nets, which can not only house a greater volume of fish, but also help to ensure that fixed costs such as labor, equipment and repairs are lower relative to the volume of farmed fish.
However, larger nets can introduce a number of new challenges. When made with traditional nylon, they can become much heavier and harder to handle, thereby requiring additional equipment and personnel. These nets – typically up to 160m in circumference – can weigh more than four tons, while their greater surface area means that they require more inspections and repairs.
Facing these challenges, many in the aquaculture industry are looking to increase cage size, without exposing themselves to extra risks. The solution for many lies in cage nets made with Dyneema®, the world’s strongest fiber.
Alongside population increases, eating habits are changing. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reports that although fish consumption is declining in developed countries, this is outweighed by a rise in consumption in developing regions, where yearly per-capita consumption increased from 18,5kg in 2011, to 20.3kg in 2016. In these regions, the high-quality protein provided by nutrient rich fish is playing a crucial role in alleviating food scarcity and malnutrition.
While fish will play a crucial role in providing healthy food for an ever-increasing number of hungry mouths – to meet this rising demand, new and sustainable techniques for supplying fish are required.