In fish consumption matters, Europe is doing fine. The Mediterranean countries - Portugal, Spain, and Italy - are mostly in the top 3 because of their popular and healthy diets, composed of a variety of fishes and crustaceans, olive oil, vegetables, and fruits. The average European consumption of fish and seafood is around 24 kg per person in a year, and each of those three countries consumes almost double the average.
But as I said, Europe is not doing bad at all. European consumption is almost the same as Oceania and Asia, where the diets are often seafood-based. So, cheers to the Mediterranean diet in pushing these numbers up. The top five species consumed in the EU are tuna, cod, salmon, Alaska pollock, and shrimp accounted for 44 % of total volumes in 2017.
In Europe, three non-EU countries accounted for almost 60 % of total production in 2017: Russian, Norway, and Iceland. Norway is the leading supplier of fish and seafood to the EU and the second biggest exporter in the world. Most of these exports are of farmed salmon. Today, 0.05 % of salmon is wild, and 99.95 % are from aquaculture producers.
Salmon is by far the most-consumed farmed species consumed in the EU. In Finland, it replaced Baltic herring, which was the most important commercial fish in the early 1980s. Today, Norwegian salmon has taken its place. Also, organic fish is growing in interest. The UK and Germany lead the EU consumption, and most of the organic salmon available comes from Ireland, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
In 2018, Finnish people consumed a little less than 4 kg of domestic fish and a little more than 9 kg of imported fish per person. The average consumption per person is around 23 kg, a little lower than the EU medium. Regarding the domestic market, the most important species is the farmed rainbow trout. Of wild-caught local fish, vendace was the most consumed, followed by pike, perch, pikeperch, Baltic herring, and European whitefish. As for imported fish products, Norwegian salmon was followed by canned tuna, farmed rainbow trout, frozen pollock, and shrimp.
Farmed production is a big reality, with China being the most significant player in fish exports: its aquaculture is even bigger than its wild production. If we think about Asia having 74 % of the wild catches worldwide, it's easy to affirm that both farmed and wild-caught quantities are massive. Europe receives large amounts of cod and pollock from China, and as Europe's self-sufficiency rate is at 45 %, the rest is all imported products.
But we'd be joking if we said the amount of fish and seafood consumed is more significant than meat. Since 2009, households have spent on purchasing fish and shellfish at the EU level around one-quarter of the amount spent on meat. And Finland is not different. With high and fluctuating prices, to buy fresh fish is very expensive. Food processing companies buy Norwegian salmon in bulk to resell them in tasty variations, and you can find it smoked, seared, flamed, blazed, and for many tastes. In another spectrum of the food production industry, the luxury market has its own share. With farmed sturgeons, to produce caviar in Finland is an exquisite reality. Consumers of this type of product are already familiar with it, because of the Russian influence in making this high-end delicacy.
Wild or farmed, accessible, or a luxury for a few, the world trade of fish, seafood, and processed products open up chances to taste flavors we wouldn't be allowed unless traveling. Not just fresh, but also frozen, processed, and canned preparations open the doors of gastronomic experiences. And mostly, if you can, from Finnish companies.
Photo: Paul Einerhand - Unsplash