Shift in Trophic Level of Mediterranean Mariculture Species
The mean trophic level of the farmed fish species in the Mediterranean has been increasing. We examined the farming-up hypothesis (i.e., the increase in the production of high-trophic-level species) in the Mediterranean by determining the trophic level of the aquafeeds (i.e., what the fish are fed) of 5 species of farmed marine fishes: common dentex (Dentex dentex), common pandora (Pagellus erythrinus), European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax), gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata), and red porgy (Pagrus sp.). The mean trophic level of aquafeed used in mariculture from 1950 to 2011 was higher (3.93) than the prey farmed fish consume in the wild (3.72) and increased at a faster rate (0.48/decade) compared with that based on their diets in the wild (0.43/decade). Future expected replacement of the fishmeal and oil in aquafeeds by plant materials may reverse the farming-up trend, although there are a number of concerns regarding operational, nutritional, environmental, and economic issues. The farming-up reversal can be achieved in an ecologically friendly manner by facilitating the mariculture of low-trophic-level fishes and by promoting high efficiency in the use of living marine resources in aquafeeds.