Originally published for Sandusky, Ohio
For decades, Salmon Farms moored open nets and pens from facility to estuary assuring consumers of their safety and inherent environmental protection. CleanFish, a company focused on buying sustainably-farmed fish declares on its website, “We believe that by sourcing delicious seafood from people who care, we can spark a return back to healthy oceans and regenerative ecosystems.”
CleanFish is best known for its use of Loch Duart Salmon, a farmed variety found in some restaurants throughout Erie County, OH. But, CleanFish’s declaration toward sustainability runs contrary to findings from scientists working to collect data on farmed fish along river estuaries.
In British Columbia, Chile, Ireland, Norway, Scotland and elsewhere, Salmon Farms are placed strategically at the mouth of pristine rivers where adult Salmon spawn in the fall. These waters provide a doorway for young Salmon who enter a new life in the ocean current. Now, scientists and commercial fisherman are saying the door to that new life is bolted shut by the locks and hinges of Salmon Farms. They proclaim Salmon Farms are literally killing off smolt (young Salmon) as they begin to make their journey from river to sea, by exposing the smolt to record amounts of sea lice.
“Salmon farming has potential negative implications for its surroundings, including wild salmon. Addressing the sea lice challenge is one of the most important tasks for the salmon farming industry worldwide,” from the Marine Harvest sustainability report of 2008. Marine Harvest is the largest producer of Farmed Salmon across the globe. “In Canada, we operate salmon farms on the coast of beautiful British Columbia and Vancouver Island, where 550 people produce 45,000 tonnes of sustainable Atlantic salmon each year.” as stated on their website.
In 2003, “eighty percent of the Salmon sold in the United States were raised on farms.” wrote Marian Burrows of the New York Times.
Critics remain convinced that any Salmon Farm not operating as a closed containment, where fish are held in a submarine like aquarium, threaten wild Salmon. They also want Salmon Farms to be moved inland to ponds or channels where they can be managed properly.
In January 2010 Target decided to pull all farmed Salmon off their shelves, stating “Target is taking this important step to ensure that its salmon offerings are sourced in a sustainable way that helps to preserve abundance, species health and doesn’t harm local habitats.”
In an article from the Times, Burrows pointed out “the Department of Agriculture says farmed salmon contains almost twice the total fat, more than twice the saturated fat and fewer beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than wild salmon.” In fact grain feed has replaced the omega-3 rich wild bait fish that wild Salmon are accustomed to feeding. The result is Salmon who feed on grain have higher concentrations of omega-6′s. This high concentration of Omega-6′s in diets is said to be a major contributor to increased inflammation.
More than grain, artificial colors are added to fish feed, receiving an array of dyes made from petrochemicals, which give Salmon farmers the color their customers enjoy. Biologically, a wild salmon would turn pink from feeding on krill and shrimp. But, a farmed Salmon must consume feed with artificial color to create the orange and red hue in their meat. Without the feed a farmed Salmon would hold a dull pale grey color.
In the weekly one hour radio show, Deconstructing Dinner, broadcasting out of British Columbia, host Jon Steinman interviewed author/commercial fisherman Dennis Brown about his 2005 publication “Salmon Wars: The Battle For The West Coast Salmon Fishery.” Wherein, Brown emphasized how politics — helping corporate food processors — demonized the profession of Pacific commercial fisheries with over-harvesting in order to pass policies to limit the season on salmon. This policies opened the market for farmed fisheries and bankrupted families of commercial fisherman.
Furthermore, Brown stresses the need to return to a catch that is based off the percentage of Salmon populations rather than a fixed number of fish allowed for a season. (Salmon carry different population percentage yields depending upon the river they use to spawn.)
The Salmon Farming industry is said to be degrading water quality with concentrations of fish waste, biological pollution (where farmed salmon escape and interbreed with wild stock), uneaten feed deposits and toxic chemical saturations.
Burrows reported, in 2003, that British Columbia saw sea lice, the largest problem in Salmon Farms, reducing the run of smolt on Vancouver island from 3.5 million to 147,000. In reaction to Burrows report, Vivian Krause of Nutreco Corporation says sea lice are a natural part of the environment. She stated in an op-ed to the Times, “sea lice (from managed farms) do not overpopulate.” Krause sees a possible coexistence between the systems — farm vs. wild — when Salmon harvests are managed.
Sea lice are parasitic crustaceans that travel with adult salmon as they make their way from the ocean to rivers. Historically, sea lice would come into rivers with salmon in the fall and die with the fish after the spawn; leaving a sea lice-free environment for the smolt in the spring. Alexandra Morton, a biologist from British Columbia issued this statement to the Times, “What happens in the farms is the wild fish go by, and transfer a few of these lice. Then in the spring the wild salmon come out of the rivers, their too young, they don’t have the scales, so the sea lice get on them and kill them.” Morton is reiterating the common problem of sea lice migrating off of wild fish onto farmed pens, where they can repopulate exponentially and reach migrating smolt.
The Fish Farming industry has recognized sea lice as a problem in the underwater pens of farmed Salmon and uses “Slice” a pesticide with the active ingredient ‘emamectin benzoate‘ to deter sea lice populations on sites of farmed Salmon. Studies show that after an application of Slice only 1 in 10 fish hold sea lice. Although, “Individual sites typically contain 500,000 to 750,000 penned fish.” (Cornelia Dean — reporter for the Times)
Diseases and viruses are additional issues plaguing Salmon farms. The viral disease infectious salmon anemia (ISA), infects, mutates and adapts to the artificial habitat of Salmon farms, and is responsible for destroying farmed populations in Norway, Scotland, Chile and Canada. The virus is capable of traveling from farm to farm being carried by seawater, by fish feed, or even transporting itself from a sea louse, or sea lice. In the wild, the transmission of this virus is unlikely to spread throughout an entire school, given the infected fish will not be able to travel and infect other members. Whereas, on the farm ISA can infect one fish and contaminate an entire pen, resulting in thousands upon thousands of fish kills and infectious sites that risk transmission to wild fish. (see: NYTIMES ISA article)
In the west, Alaska holds an existing ban on Salmon farming, while Canada continues to promote fish farms citing the multimillions they create.