Factory Farms of the Sea
Sea-based farming has made salmon one of the cheapest and most plentiful protein products on the world market. But as prices drop, the real costs of this one-time delicacy are widespread environmental damage and threats to human health, reports John Ryan in the September/October issue of World Watch magazine.
In Feedlots of the Sea, Ryan reports how an industry that grew its annual production 16-fold between 1985 and 2000, to more than one million tons of fish, also pollutes waters, spreads disease, consumes massive amounts of energy and raw materials, and threatens the survival of wild stocks.
Aquaculture's ecological impacts might be less problematic if they were the cost of providing healthy protein sources to a hungry world or reducing the impact of over-fishing on the world's seas, writes Ryan. But salmon farming is in fact putting greater strains on the world's fish stocks and their ability to meet human needs.
The production of farmed salmon results in a net loss to the world's total fish production, as it takes 1.82 kg of ocean fish, turned into feed, to yield .45 kg of salmon. Excessive harvesting of small, bony fish in Peru and Chile has meant loss of prey for birds and marine life. This harvesting of fish for feed also has adverse effects on human health. In the coastal town of Chimbote, Chile, fish waste in the air and waterways from fishmeal factories has reduced the inhabitants' life expectancy 10 years below the national average.
In addition, salmon crowded into net pens become susceptible to outbreaks of parasites and viral and bacterial diseases, perpetuating the need for heavy applications of antibiotics and pesticides. To give these pellet-fed fish the pink flesh typical of wild salmon, farmers administer doses of food colouring.
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Levi Bird contributes and publishes news editorial to http://www.chum-bucket.com.
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