Earlier in May, the UN launched the second World Ocean Assessment reporting about the state of our oceans, in order to better understand the relationships of human activity on its health. Its status is indeed not clear as crystal: climate change is impacting on water quality, fish migration roots as well as fish reproductivity. In fact, the Ocean does not only absorb a quarter of the CO2 we emit, but it absorbed over 90% of the additional heat generated by greenhouse gas emissions since 1970. The acid gases that are released into the air and water change the pH of the oceans and increase their acidity level.
Endangerment to marine life is not only caused by water becoming more polluting: overfishing is reducing fish stock enhancing food insecurity in smaller communities. Currently tuna is fished in over 70 countries in the world. This fish species account for 20 % of the value of all marine capture fisheries and over 8% of all globally traded seafood. It’s popularity as ingredient across the decades remains unchanged, as two main products drive tuna production: traditional canned tuna and sashimi.
The global tuna populations have declined by 60% over the last 50 years and new food trends such as poke and sushi rolls, keep it high on the list of most wanted ingredients.
Currently, plant-based seafood industry is a white space, but it is expected to grow 28% annually over the next decade. As of World Ocean Day, Finless Foods, a U.S. based company, decided to release a new product consisting of nine whole, plant-based ingredients that are cooked and seasoned to mimic the taste and texture of tuna. “Tuna play an important role in ocean health and has historically been a difficult species for aquaculture,” says Brian Wyrwas, co-founder of the California based company.
Aquaculture has also been raising concerns, due to the heavy intensive farming practices. Some might still argue that aquaculture could be very beneficial to the environment especially when seaweed and kelp are cultivated: these plants can grow without the need for freshwater or fertilizers and by taking advantage of polluted wastewater from agricultural runoff. Harnessing the power of seaweed could furthermore reduce cattle’s CO2 Emissions and companies and startups such as Volta Greentech, are planning to extend their seaweed farms at sea.
Furthermore a major concern relating to “real fish” consumption is the possible intake of hazardous levels of mercury. An a recent publication in Nature Geoscience, found that the meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet had mercury levels comparable to rivers in industrial China.
Finless Foods’ product was specifically designed to act as a substitute for raw tuna in dishes like poke and rolls. “We felt that developing viable alternatives would yield the greatest net impact for our ocean” continued Wyrwas. At the same time the products are not just perfect for vegans missing that tuna-taste: “Our plant-based tuna offers an option for consumers who can’t eat seafood because of allergies, who think about other health concerns, or who just want to enjoy a seafood dish without the catch,” says Michael Selden, CEO and Co-Founder of Finless Foods.
Contemporarily, the company is looking at opportunity to expand upon their cell-cultured efforts by creating and producing additional seafood options. Plant based alternative and cultured-fish cells can help address global food security and tackle many challenges faced by the Ocean.