Herring in farmed salmon food threatens Baltic ecosystems and an iconic Swedish delicacy


The Japan Times reports that fermented herring, a Swedish delicacy, holds such a special place in the country's culture that national newspapers review each year's vintage and the first sale of the year receives hype akin to the first Beaujolais of the season. It's also an acquired taste; social media videos abound of brave folks trying a food that smells like "eggs rotting in open sewage."

But it's becoming harder for dozens of small-scale fishers to produce it because Baltic herring is on the verge of extinction. The problem, they say, is that almost all the herring in the waters near the coast are being scooped up by industrial trawlers so they can be ground up and fed to another famous Scandinavian fish: Norwegian farmed salmon.

This not only threatens a traditional Swedish delicacy, it also threatens the very ecosystem of the Baltic sea, where herring is an important part of the food chain for other fish species, seals and seabirds.

Baltic herring is one of the key commercial catch species in the Baltic Sea in terms of volume, but its use for human consumption is low and the majority of the catch is used as feed in fur and fish farming.

This confirms the many problems associated with providing fish food to the aquaculture industry.