If you tuned into Seaspiracy, you likely already know that the global fishing industry is destroying ocean ecosystems, threatening commonly eaten fish populations including bluefin tuna and Grand Banks Cod. But what if it was even easier to ditch fish from your diet? A California-based start-up just secured $500,000 to develop sushi-grade vegan bluefin tuna, a delicious, sustainable swap for fish.

Impact Food is accelerating its production of plant-based seafood. Impact’s sustainable seafood products will provide customers with the same experience as traditional fish while reducing the threats to the ocean’s ecosystems. Pacific bluefin tuna is listed as “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and Impact Food’s new product intends to help revitalize the dwindling population.

“Our oceans are dying, and the world’s demand for fish is the reason. We need an ethical, sustainable, and healthy solution” President of Ahimsa Foundation, an Impact Food investor, Shaleen Shah said. “Ahimsa Foundation is excited to invest in Impact Food, as its work in creating a solution to this challenge is exemplary. Great taste, texture, and nutrition for a plant-based fish alternative.”

Impact Food developed a recipe that will replicate the taste, texture, and nutritional content of conventional seafood. The recipe uses three main ingredients including pea protein with amino acids, beet juice for color, and algae for omega-3 fatty acids. The proprietary blend is designed to mirror the fibrous texture of whole-cut seafood.

Impact Food Hopes to Prevent Overfishing

Pan founded Impact Food in 2021 with fellow University of California, Berkeley graduates Stephanie Claudino Daffara and Adrian Miranda. Using their knowledge in molecular biology, business, and food science, the three launched Impact Food to help combat overfishing by providing consumers with an appealing, sustainable alternative to traditional seafood.

“Because of increasing global demand for seafood, overfishing has continued to decimate the tuna population at an alarming rate,” co-founder Kelly Pan said to VegNews. “We created delicious plant-based tuna so that fish stocks can finally recover from decades of ecological damage and the tuna fish can continue to restore the balance in our marine ecosystems. But tuna is only the start — there’s so many other species and cuts of seafood to be explored.”

With the investment money from Ahimsa Foundation, Future Food Fund (Japan), Serpentine Ventures, George Sobek, and Pierre Jouve, the company can accelerate its commercial launch. The company revealed that it plans to hope to partner with select restaurants in the United States and Japan before a full-scale commercial launch by the end of 2023.

“We decided to start with a vegan, whole-cut alternative to tuna because tuna is both the world's most consumed fish and one of the world’s most endangered animal species,” Pan said. “Bluefin tuna is known for its delicate texture and subtle ocean flavor that is perfect for popular dishes like sushi. It is also an apex predator that helps maintain the health of our oceans.”

Vegan Seafood Alternatives Hit the Market

The global plant-based seafood market is expected to experience a 30.4 percent growth rate from 2022 to 2027. One report even estimates that the vegan fish market will hit $1.3 billion by 2031. Following surges in plant-based beef and chicken industries, the plant-based fish market is the next category set to experience record growth.

Over recent years, companies have developed several alternatives to classic fish products including crab cakes, sashimi, and even whole-cut salmon fillet. This January, the Israeli food-tech company Plantish unveil its first whole-cut salmon fillets, matching the nutritional content of traditional salmon. Another company, Revo Foods, unveiled its 3-D printed Salmon Fillet this July. The company expects to commercially release its new product in early 2023.

Now, customers can find fish alternatives that provide the same nutritional content as conventional fish without the environmental or health risks. One study released this June linked eating fish to an increased risk of skin cancer. The study notes that due to pollution, eating fish is no longer as safe due to ocean contamination.

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