Thoughts on the Sustainability of Salmon Farming
Whether the number of people at last Saturday’s Get Out Migration rally at the legislature was 1000 – as reported by the Vancouver Sun and Times Colonist – or closer to 4000 – as reported by the Globe and Mail, Global TV and several local stations as well as the demonstrators themselves – Alexandra Morton has certainly achieved her aim of getting people talking and thinking about salmon and sustainability.
With all of the excitement surrounding the rally, you can certainly be forgiven if you missed Mary Ellen Walling’s latest op-ed piece in Monday’s Vancouver Sun. Walling, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association, argues “that simply getting rid of farms isn’t the answer when it comes to the economic health of communities across Canada.” But what about the ecological health of the oceans?
One person who did not miss the article was Chris Genovali, Executive Director of Raincoast Conservation Foundation, who questions Walling’s assertions that the industry is, in fact sustainable. He sets aside the problems which have bogged down the debate, such as sea lice and jobs created by the industry, and focuses instead on the sustainability of farming a carnivorous species.
Unlike herbivorous species, which consume mainly fishmeal, feeding carnivorous salmon requires large amounts of other fish to be harvested – which includes krill as well as other species of wild fish. According to Genovali, Europe has begun to import fish from South America in order to keep up with the growing demand of the fish farm industry. This in itself is a worrying ecological prospect. It should be noted that the industry is trying to help by switching to soy-based proteins but they are simply growing too fast for these gains to make much of a difference.
Researcher Corey Peet states that while farming herbivorous species adds to the global seafood product, salmon farming is actually a net fish consumer. According to Genovali,
Past and current scientific information suggests that farming salmon and other carnivores is not sustainable, contrary to industry claims. Farming carnivores is inherently illogical from an ecological perspective and layering additional risk factors, such as disease transfer and sea lice infestation, upon B.C.’s salmon via open net-pen aquaculture when our wild stocks are already under a suite of pressures makes no sense at all…. [read full article]
So the debate continues, with salmon farmers on one side arguing that their industry is sustainable and helpful for wild salmon stocks, and conservationists on the other arguing that while farming salmon (on land) may be helpful to wild salmon, it is damaging to the ocean as a whole to feed the farmed stocks.
So I leave you with a question: leaving out all of the emotions raised by people on both sides of the debate (e.g. sacred salmon vs. human jobs), what do you think is the best scientific option that would make everyone happy?
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