Hidden costs of salmon farming
Dr William Rees from the University of British Columbia, in a talk titled “The Irrational Economics of Salmon”, stressed that economies are not independent of the environment and countered those who argue “why bother with wild fish when they can be farmed”.
Aquaculture looks efficient to the regular observer but when we look at the equation of energy expended in fish farming with quantity of fish protein obtained, wild Pink Salmon is nearly fives times efficient as farmed Atlantic Salmon. In his words, “efficiency is mythical”.
Dr Rees referred few times to “hidden costs” and on how it exceeds actual monetary costs when salmon farming and aquaculture were concerned. Long term social and environmental costs are missed by the ordinary consumer. Farmed salmon is nearly in the same league with red meat for carbon footprint.
Large quantities of fish – those perfectly good for human consumption – are required to produce farmed salmon. Those who suffer the consequences of this are always those in poorer nations. 1/3 or fish caught in the wild is used for the global fish farming industry. This is staple food for humans taken away from the developing world to produce luxury items for the wealthy.
Environment and sustainability
Catherine Stewart of the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform, a coalition of experts and conservation groups in BC, spoke on human health and environmental sustainability. She started by stressing the importance of wild salmon to the ecosystems. In BC, over 200 species depend on wild salmon. 70% of nitrogen fuelling the wild forests results from wild salmon.
Salmon farming is clearly a threat to the environment. Some information from the Alliance:
* Between 2008 and 2009, tens of thousands of salmon have escaped from farms into the wild
* Clam beds near salmon farms have become contaminated
* There are elevated levels of mercury in wild rockfish populations in close vicinity to farms
* Deformed marine life are found regularly near farms
* Hundreds of seals and sea lions have been killed in nets along with whales
* Farmed salmon is a major source of sea lice, a devastating parasite for wild salmon
Salmon farming is growing
In British Columbia, the government is planning a tenfold increase in salmon farming. BC is taking advantage of the woes suffered by the industry in Chile where an epidemic of Salmon Anaemia has decimated the salmon farming industry. Chile is an example of what an unregulated salmon farming industry can do to fish and environments.