Many environmental experts have warned about the unsustainability of fish farms for close to a decade now, but nothing has been done to improve the system. As usual, government agencies and environmental organizations around the world turned a blind eye to what was predicted to become an absolute disaster, and now the ramifications can be seen across the globe.
Fish Farms – One of the Most Unsustainable Food Production Strategies Ever Implemented
Farmed fish is now so common, if you bought fish in the supermarket recently or ordered one in a restaurant, chances are it was farm raised. (About the only places you can find wild-caught fish these days are specialty fine-dining seafood restaurants.)
These oceanic feedlots, consisting of acres of net-covered pens tethered offshore were once considered a wonderful solution to over-fishing, but the reality is far from it.
As mentioned in the video above, it can take up to 5 kilos of wild fish and Antarctic krill to produce just one kilo of farmed salmon!
Rather than solving the problem of over-fishing, fish farms are literally competing with human consumption for what little wild fish thereare left...
Open cage salmon farms are also decimating natural salmon stocks, and destroy the livelihoods of fisheries across the world.
Fish Farms Breed Disease that Decimate Wild Fish around the World
Conditions at fish farms are like conditions at factory farms everywhere: overcrowded, sickly, infected animals are fed whatever it takes to grow them as large as possible in as short a time as possible. But these techniques create disease, and the techniques employed cause otherwise near-non-existent disease to spread past the pens into the wild.
The "answer" is to add antibiotics to the fish feed – the identical "safety" measure employed by cattle- and poultry farms, for example. As a result of the excessive use of antibiotics, resistant strains of disease have emerged that now infect both wild and domesticated fish.
Sea lice, a type of crustacean that is easily incubated by captive fish on farms, have also become a significant problem.
To deal with it, chemicals that have not been tested for safety on other species are now being routinely used in salmon farms – even though no one actually knows what these untested chemicals will do to other crustaceans, such as shrimp, crab and lobster. After all, these pens are in open water and there's no way to control the spread of these chemicals.
The inevitable result of these modern fish farming practices is an evil circle of disease, antibiotic use, followed by the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains.
According to the video above, diseases created by salmon farms have now destroyed the Chilean fishing industry, and affect wild salmon in Canada, as well as sea trout in Ireland and Scotland.
The wild salmon fisheries in the US have also gone bust.
Two years ago, US federal authorities declared that the West Coast ocean salmon had reached a tipping point, and that the fisheries in California, Washington and Oregon had failed due to a sudden collapse of salmon. As a result, both commercial and recreational fishing for salmon was banned for the first time in 160 years.
Farmed Fish Also Pose Additional Human Health Hazards
In addition to being an unsustainable practice and an economic disaster, farm raised fish can also spell disaster for your health.
It's important to understand that ALL farm-raised fish – not just salmon -- are fed a concoction of vitamins, antibiotics, and depending on the fish, synthetic pigments, to make up for the lack of natural flesh coloration due to the altered diet. Without it, the flesh of caged salmon, for example, would be an unappetizing, pale gray.
The fish are also fed pesticides, along with compounds such as toxic copper sulfate, which is frequently used to keep nets free of algae.
Not only do you ingest these drugs and chemicals when you eat the fish, but these toxins also build up in sea-floor sediments. In this way, industrial fish farming raises many of the same environmental concerns about chemicals and pollutants that are associated with feedlot cattle and factory chicken farms.
In addition, fish waste and uneaten feed further litter the sea floor beneath these farms, generating bacteria that consume oxygen vital to shellfish and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures.
Studies have also consistently found levels of PCBs, dioxins, toxaphene and dieldrin, as well as mercury, to be higher in farm-raised fish than wild fish.
This fact alone would be cause to reconsider consuming farmed fish!
Wild caught fish have already reached such toxic levels, it's impossible to recommend eating them with a clear conscience anymore. For example, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey study, mercury contamination was detected in EVERY fish sampled in nearly 300 streams across the United States!
More than a quarter of these fish contained mercury at levels exceeding the EPA criterion for the protection of human health. Another study on fish from US lakes and reservoirs found that more than half contained excessive levels of mercury -- so much so they were deemed unsafe for children and pregnant women to eat.
So, when you consider the fact that factory farmed fish typically are even MORE toxic than wild caught fish and also contain an assortment of antibiotics and pesticides, avoiding them becomes a no-brainer – at least if you're concerned about your health.
Could Moving Fish Farms Onto Land Solve the Problem?
Some, such as Orri Vigfusson, chairman of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, believe that the answer to the current problems is to relocate the fish farms from the open ocean onto land, where it can be better controlled.
But even though that might help protect the oceans to some degree, it still not solve the problem of exacerbating over-fishing to create fish feed. It also wouldn't solve the problem of the excessive use of antibiotics and other chemicals, which are an integral part of any factory farm setup, whether it's in the ocean or on land.
Besides that, where would the toxic waste get hauled off to? The environmental devastation would still be significant.
What are Your Options?
Sadly, contamination of our oceans and waterways is so great that I don't advise eating ANY fish, whether farm-raised or wild-caught, unless you can verify its purity.
What options do you have, then, to get the health benefits of the omega-3 fats in fish, without exposing yourself to pollutants and excessive amounts of antibiotics, and contributing to the decline of the fish population and destruction of the environment?
These days I recommend you get your omega-3 fat from an alternative source like krill oil. Not only are krill (small, shrimp-like creatures) a superior source of omega-3, but they are one of the most easily renewable food resources available, making them an excellent nutritional source from an environmental perspective.
Though I know many of you enjoy fish for the flavor and the health benefits, if you can't confirm that it's from a clean, sustainable source, I believe the risks from eating it -- both to your health and the environment -- vastly outweigh the benefits. The only source of wild salmon I can personally recommend is from Vital Choice.