NNot so long ago Atlantic salmon was a common wild species. After being born in rivers in northeastern USA and Canada, they moved across the Atlantic for a 2,000 mile journey to western Greenland. Millionen von salmon traveled up to 60 miles each day, fighting off predators while eating zooplankton (and small fish) and covered the Atlantic. When the time came, instinct and the earth’s magnetic fields led these magnificent fish back to spawn in the precise rivers of their birth.
Wild salmon is now an endangered species. They are no longer found in most U.S. rivers. Many factors are responsible for the decline of wild salmon, including habitat destruction and pollution as well as overfishing. However, in the past 20 years, there has been a new danger: open-net salmon farm floating fish farms on the ocean. The $20-billion-a-year farmed salmon industry is the world’s fastest growing food producer, and it has made farmed Atlantic salmon the most popular fish on dinner tables North America. However, at what price?
The new species of fish we are seeing is an imposter from industrialization that poses a threat to our health as well as our environment. Salmon raised in farms are fast-growing and are often contaminated with disease or parasites. Fish eat pellets made from fishmeal, vegetables and other animal byproducts. They are also doused frequently with pesticides or antibiotics.
Our investigation of the global salmon-farming industry took us more than two decades. We also investigated the multinational companies who control it. Salmon Wars. Researchers, scientists, journalists, activists, as well as those involved in aquaculture business were interviewed. We read academic research, court papers, and other previously unreleased investigative documents. Three critical questions surrounding farmed salmon were identified and answered by us.
The most crucial thing is that farmed salmon be healthy.
For its protein, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acid, doctors recommend salmon. American Heart Association recommends that you eat at least 2 servings per week. They rarely warn about the risks or specify the type of salmon to be eaten.
Experts and studies have disproved the widespread claim that salmon is a good choice for a healthy diet, especially when it comes from open-net fish farms. Although some farmed salmon might be better than others, the majority of consumers don’t have sufficient information to make an informed decision. The labels are not likely to reveal the origin of salmon or the use of chemicals to raise them. The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t even have definition for organic salmon.
“It is confusing, and I suspect there is willful confusion out there,” Dr. Leonardo Trasande, a professor of environmental medicine at New York University, told us. “We know that every fish is a trade-off between omega-3 content and toxic content like PCBs. Salmon in general is a balanced fish. Now the challenge here is that I can’t tell which salmon is farmed the right way or the wrong way.”
Researchers discovered levels of polychlorinated phenyls (a possible carcinogen) seven times greater in farmed Atlantic salmon compared to wild salmon as early as 2004. Recent studies have shown that farmed salmon contains high amounts of chemicals and antibiotics. Research by Arizona State University found an increase in the use of drug-resistant antibiotics within farmed seafood in recent years. This raises concerns about antibiotic resistance among humans. Salmon flesh is often contaminated with toxic chemicals that can accumulate in the bloodstream of people who consume it.
According to some studies, eating just one meal per month of Atlantic salmon from farmed Atlantic may expose you to levels that exceed the standards set by the World Health Organization. Children, pregnant women, and infants are most at risk due to the possible harm that contaminants can cause in developing brains.
Seafood Watch, an independent guide on fish consumption, is affiliated to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They recommend that Atlantic salmon be avoided due to excessive chemical usage and diseases. Expert nutritionists prefer wild salmon to farmed salmon.
Is farmed salmon also sustainable?
Salmon farms often claim that their salmon is sustainable and natural raised. This is a false claim.
Salmon are carnivores. Most salmon feed is 25-30 percent fish meal or fish oil, which can be made from fish oils, fish oil, mackerel and other small-forage fish. Fully a quarter of the fish harvested from the world’s oceans winds up in feed for aquaculture and pets. Huge trawlers plunder the salmon fisheries offshore of Peru and West Africa in order to meet the growing demand. This is a huge problem as it threatens the livelihood of subsistence fishermen and increases food insecurity.
“You take the food from the plates of people in West Africa to feed the people of Europe and the United States and other countries,” Dr. Ibrahima Cisse of Greenpeace told us.
According to salmon farmers, they provide the protein that the world needs as it grows. This dangerous precedent is set by depleting the fisheries in low income countries so that richer countries can have unsustainable fish.
In universities laboratories, as well start-ups, efforts are underway to create alternative proteins. So far, there is no end in sight for the industry’s exploitation of small fish.
Recent court cases have challenged the industry’s sustainability claims. Norway’s Mowi ASA, the world’s largest salmon farmer, settled a deceptive advertising case in federal court in New York City a year ago. The company paid $1.3 million and agreed its U.S. subsidiaries would stop using the phrases “sustainably sourced” and “naturally raised” to describe its smoked salmon.
Are farmed salmon being raised in a natural way that does not cause harm to the environment,
Let the jury decide.
Fish spend up to two years in open net farms, where they are housed in 10 to 12 salmon cages that extend to 30 feet under the water surface. They anchor to the bottom. Sea lice are tiny parasites that can cause death in farmed salmon.
Massive amounts of parasiticides (including banned neurotoxins) and antibiotics are employed to fight the pathogens. The majority of this residue ends up in salmon and the rest goes to seabed under the cages. The toxic mixture of untreated feed waste, excess fish decomposition, excrement and chemical residue can kill or drive away hundreds upon thousands of marine species. A photo of a yardstick that was 32 inches long, covered in slime underneath a salmon farm is one we discovered.
In open-net fish farms, salmon are dying at alarming rates from disease and parasites. According to estimates, 15-20% of farmed salmon will die before being harvested each year. This is equivalent to tens or millions of fish. For comparison, factory chickens have a mortality rate of 5 percent while feedlot cattle has a mortality rate at 3.3 percent. Sea lice plumes from farms can make young wild salmon vulnerable when they are just beginning to migrate. Farmed salmon farmed in captivity compete for wild food, and interbreeding can weaken the gene bank.
The farms that produce the salmon used in our diet come from the Pacific coast of Canada, Chile, Scotland and Norway. Food and Drug Administration (which is responsible for food safety) pays very little attention to farmed Salmon at a time of increasing food-borne disease. The FDA only tested 86 salmon samples from 379 000 tons in 2017, according to the General Accounting Office (an arm of Congress).
But there are options. Recirculation aquaculture technology is a new method that grows fish indoors. Fish swim in tanks containing filtered and recirculated water. The salmon do not touch the ocean and are protected from chemicals.
Several recent surveys show that consumers will pay a premium for products that are sustainable and don’t harm the environment. Global markets may soon be disrupted by salmon raised in the wild. To ensure that we are making healthy choices regarding the future of our world, it is important to have transparency and better regulation. Farmed Atlantic salmon raised in open-net pens should not be on our menu.
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