What’s Wrong with Fish Farming?
The farming of fish and seafood, often referred to as aquaculture, is the fastest growing sector of the world food production industry–and one of the fastest growing threats to our water environments and native species. More than 100 fresh and marine water species are farm-raised in open-water net pens, land-locked ponds and fully enclosed land-based systems. Rapidly increasing demand for fish and fish products has outpaced our regulatory agencies’ ability to manage emerging environmental and human health threats from the burgeoning aquaculture industry. The exponential growth in the industry has created enormous pressure on fresh water and marine environments and native, non-farmed species. In the absence of minimal state and national regulatory standards, this country’s 4,000 aquaculture facilities are largely left to their own designs.
The environmental problems arising from the industry are altering the biodiversity of entire ecosystems. Some of the impacts include the introduction of non-native farmed fish species that diminish or replace indigenous fish populations; the propagation of deadly fish diseases; and the over-fishing of vast quantities of non-commercial fish to feed carnivorous farmed fish, such as salmon. Yet fish are not the only organisms affected–federally protected marine mammals and birds are continually harmed by entanglement in net pens and by the concentration of harmful wastes and industrial drugs and chemicals escaping into open waters.
Consumption of aquaculture-bred fish is raising serious human health and food safety concerns as well (almost all the catfish and trout, and close to half the salmon and shrimp sold in the U.S. are raised in aquaculture facilities). Farmed fish often receive large doses of antibiotics to protect them from disease and are exposed to a variety of pesticides used to kill parasites and body fungi–all of which accumulate in the fish’s tissues.
The Center for Food Safety truefoodnow.org is working to activate and educate federal agencies, consumers, chefs, grocers, fish retailers and legislators on the need to protect seafood consumers and our water environments from the dangers posed by existing aquaculture practices.