3 Facts About Farmed Salmon That Will Shock You

Round fish farm cage in Norwegian Sea

When you shop for salmon, or any seafood for that matter, do you consider the environmental impact that purchase has?

It’s ok.  Most people don’t.

In fact, most people don’t think about where any of their food comes from when they are shopping for it.

It’s really not surprising. It’s not something any of us really want to think about.

After all, it’s not always a pretty picture.

That’s probably why it’s so easy for some of food companies to do the things they do… that really aren’t any good for anyone.  Not us, not the fish, and certainly not the environment.

Certain wild commercial fisheries are sustainably managed to protect against overfishing, habitat damaging fishing methods, and pollution, sure.

But, alternatively, certain other  fisheries are not managed at all and contribute to population decline of many species.

While most people assume that farmed fish would take pressure off of the wild fish. The unfortunate truth is that the vast majority of farmed salmon are raised in at-sea pens.

Here are three things that might surprise you about farming carnivorous fish (such as salmon and trout) at sea:

  1. It creates an environment with unheard of levels of many diseases that put wild fish at risk.
  2. It destroys the environment around the open-sea pens or where the highly concentrated feces ends up deposited.
  3. It is the major cause of decline of some wild species that are used in the feed.

A little background:

The distinctions between wild and farmed salmon start at the moment of conception.

Wild salmon are conceived by nature’s method, in the pristine streams and rivers where salmon have always spawned throughout history.

Farmed salmon are bred in a lab with a limited gene pool, which leads to disease and mutations.

This is just the start of the dramatic differences between the life cycles of farm raised and wild salmon.

In one to three years after they hatch, the wild salmon head out to the open ocean where they will feed on other natural wild fish while traveling vast distances as they develop into strong, adult, salmon.   After one to four years in the ocean they will return to the exact same stream or river that they were born in to spawn.

In comparison, once the farmed salmon hatch, they are placed in a pen and with 500,00 to a 1,000,000 or more other salmon fry.

They are fed cheap, mass-produced food containing high amounts of toxins, chemical pollutants, pesticides and antibiotics.

The farmed salmon grow into adults while being fed that unappetizing diet while trapped in pens with an absurdly high concentration of diseases and feces surrounding them. Being in a pen, they never get away from these toxic conditions at all.

Not surprisingly, many salmon farms are also located in some of the most polluted areas in the world too…

Simply put, farmed fish are not good for the fish, the Eco-system, or you.

Here’s a deeper look at the three major problems with farm raised fish.

Farming salmon creates an environment with unheard of levels of many diseases that put wild fish at risk.

The diseases salmon farms cause spread to a wide range of wild fish species. One of the worst threats that farmed fish pose for wild salmon is sea lice. Scientists for CARR, a highly respected science committee, did studies and research that showed that sea lice from salmon farms pose enormous risk to juvenile wild salmon. Sea lice grow rapidly on salmon farms and manage to spread to waters surrounding the pens. The worst outcome that the sea lice disease poses for the environment is that the disease attacks baby wild salmon as they head out to sea.

Salmon farms destroys the environment around the open-sea pens or where the highly concentrated feces ends up deposited:

Since salmon farms are jam-packed with 500,000 or more farmed salmon in such a small area, fish feces and waste feed causes diseases not only on the ocean bottom but also surrounding waters.

The feces and waste compiling leads to non-native bacterial diseases starting to grow and spread also. These diseases contribute to destroying the natural ocean life under the pens and in the surrounding areas.

The damage is especially evident in areas of shallow waters, or areas that do not flush well.

More environmental negative impacts caused by fish farming than diseases and bacteria…

Oxygen needed by other species to survive is smothered away near salmon farms by the layer of feces, waste, and from the competition from the unnaturally high density of farmed salmon.

Ocean currents sometimes help carry away part of the waste and feces from fish farms.

This is not helpful from an environmental stand point either though, as farmedanddangerous.org, a website that provides facts from various sources about salmon farms, explains:…

“The bulk of waste may be carried away from the farm site by ocean currents (the majority of salmon farms are not even near a strong current), but this too ends up collecting in another place and causing localized pollution.”

It is estimated that the average salmon farm pollutes the water with waste and feces as much as the (unprocessed) sewage of a city of 10,000 people would (www.wildpacificsalmon.com).

Clams and rock fish are some of the other species threatened by salmon farms.

“Clam beaches… in the Broughton Archipelago (the area with the highest concentration of salmon farms in British Columbia, Canada) have been destroyed by the accumulation of black muck and sludge that has been attributed to salmon farm waste.”

The pollution from salmon farms has also been shown to increase the levels of mercury in rock fish. Those contaminants have also increased parasites, tumors, and lesions on other ground fish near salmon farms.

Chemicals and antibiotics used in salmon farms in attempt to decrease diseases, parasites, other problems farmed salmon struggle with, and increase the speed at which the farmed salmon grows.

These chemicals damage other marine life even further.

Farmed Salmon is the major cause of decline of some wild species that are used in the feed:

Wild fish species that are made into feed for farmed fish are also in danger, because of the increase in fish farms around the world.

These wild fish are crucial for their local Eco-system, but are usually caught by habitat damaging fish trawls half way around the world from the salmon farms.

It takes over three pounds (with other studies saying as high as 10 due to unconsumed feed sinking) of other wild fish to produce one pound of harvested farmed salmon (www.puresalmon.org).

That three pounds of feed species does not include the wasted feed that escapes through the pens, and pollutes the ocean floor with layers of the excess feed that was dumped into the ocean.

Many areas around the world have been over fished for these feed species while trying to keep up with the demand from salmon farms.

Usually the wild salmon feed species from fish farms come from third world countries where it is easy to manipulate the industry to produce at an unsustainable level. The farmed salmon industry commonly tries to cover this up by reporting ratios of dried feed to wet salmon produced.

Buying farmed salmon is supporting and industry that causes lots of damage to nature.

So What Can You Do?:

Did you learn anything new in this article?

Do your friends, the fish, and the planet a favor and share it with them.

Make sure you always ask if the salmon on their menu or the shelf is farmed or wild caught, and spread the word of why you prefer wild caught from sustainable fisheries.

Tidal Vision pledges to only ever support sustainable fishery industries. 

Craig

Craig Kasberg has worked in the sustainable seafood industry for 9 years. He hopes to bring awareness to the issues our ocean faces and the deceptive labeling non-sustainble fisheries use.


This entry has 7 replies

  1. Excellent article would you like to collaborate on an investigation I’m doing on Scottish farmed salmon impacts

    • Craig says:

      Hi Paul. I would love to be apart of that research/investigation. Please email me the details: craig@tidalvisionusa.com

  2. Patriciasr says:

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this write-up plus the rest of the site is extremely good.

  3. joan says:

    I NEVER eat/buy farm raised fish for my family. I agree with all you wrote. too bad most people don’t care or are ignorant. I have a large aquarium in my home, and I know what can happen if it’s not kept really clean for healthy fish. Thank you for printing your information.

  4. TIM SYREK says:

    I am not sure if the reg grocers know which they have but from now on I will be asking and looking for the wild caught fish of all kinds, thanks for the info craig

    • Craig says:

      Hi Tim, in the US they are required to label wether farmed or wild. Sometimes the label is very small, but should be on the package somewhere.

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