Cats a bigger danger to fish stocks than people: study

CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - Pampered house cats may pose a bigger risk to world fish stocks than humans, Australian researchers said on Tuesday, with gourmet felines chewing through more than two million tonnes of seafood each year.

The global cat food industry was using an estimated 2.48 million tonnes of sardines, herrings and anchovies annually, led by well-fed U.S. felines who downed more than 1.1 million tonnes, Deakin University researchers said.

Close behind were European felines, which consumed 870,000 tonnes each year, and Japanese house cats, which ate their way through 132,000 tonnes of fish. Canadian cats accounted for 111,000 tonnes, fish nutrition researcher Giovanni Turchini said.

“Our pets seem to be eating better than their owners,” Turchini told Australian newspapers.

“I think giving a nice chunk of fish to a pet is important to satisfy the personal hedonistic needs of the owner, not the nutritional need of the cat. Cats will be very happy to eat the offal from a trout,” he said.

The research, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, said Australian cats ate 13.7 kilograms (30 pounds) of fish each year, well over the 11 kilograms of fish and seafood eaten on average by humans.

Almost 80 percent of the world’s ocean fisheries are fully or over-exploited, seriously depleted, or close to collapse, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

More than 200 million people worldwide base all or part of their income on fishing, and about 90 percent of the stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone.

Turchini said sardines, herrings and anchovies were an important link in the marine food chain and the diets of larger predatory fish like tuna and swordfish.

At the same time, pet food makers are increasingly turning to super premium and costlier foods for cashed-up pet owners.

“Forage fish could be better used for human consumption directly, particularly amongst the poorer nations of the world,” Turchini said.

Reporting by Rob Taylor, editing by Miral Fahmy