Friday, May 15, 2009

Dissecting Fish Farming Propaganda

Cross-posted here. I thought this might be of interest to my foodie friends, too.


This week, in my Canadian Living Magazine, I received a lengthy piece of propaganda from these people. I don't know how it wound up in the Canadian Living package, along with a whack of coupons and other inserts, but it was an interesting piece of propaganda nonetheless. And who doesn't love a good piece of propaganda, right? Right.

Though honest and informative, this 8 page flyer did nothing to ease any concerns I might have had about farmed salmon. In fact, after reading it through and highlighting some passages, I am even more firmly committed to not purchasing farmed salmon. The propaganda had the opposite effect to what was apparently desired by the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association.

A few highlights. I love this first one, actually.

During the last months of hatchery life, we vaccinate our salmon to help build their immune systems. At the farm site, this vaccine will protect the salmon from diseases commonly found in the saltwater environment.

Not cool with me at all, actually, but thanks for letting me know.

Next, this very assuring admission:

Since salmon naturally eat fish, such as herring and anchovies, including fish meal and oil in their diet seems natural. However, these proteins and oils are now being increasingly substituted with vegetable-based proteins and oils. (Emphasis mine.)

Again, not cool. Farmed salmon are being fed fish meal - not real fish - that now contains vegetable-based proteins and oils. This is moving even farther away from the fish's natural diet, and if these vegetable-based proteins and oils are processed at all, that's a big problem, since processed vegetable oil products are very problematic for humans, too. It's not good for humans, I can't see how this would be good for salmon.

The majority of BC farmed salmon are Atlantic salmon.

This is common knowledge if you haven't been living under a rock, but the statement, though honest, doesn't help me feel any better about farmed salmon. This sentence appears under a heading called "Escapes" which gives the reader information about what happens when a farmed Atlantic salmon happens to escape the farm. Very interesting, especially the part that says "all farmed fish escapes must be reported and that information made public." Fine. But still, the inherent problem here isn't addressed: this industry has introduced a species that is not native to the environment. Additionally, the Atlantic salmon, according to the information provided, cannot breed with any Pacific species, which is a relief, but "escaped farm salmon are poorly adapted to survival having been fed, pampered, and protected from predators. While small numbers of escaped Atlantic salmon have managed to make it to rivers, even fewer survive and none have ever produced sustained populations." Though every effort is made to prevent escapes, nothing is foolproof, despite improvements to cages. Accidents happen. If an accident happens in this case, fish die one way or another, depositing their vaccinated, vegetable-protein-fed remains out in the sea where any unsuspecting halibut can come and feast on it. Again, not cool.

By 2030, the world is expected to eat nearly 70% more fish than it does now. Wild fisheries can't keep up. One answer is aquaculture. ... In 2005, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FOA) reported that 75% of the world's capture fisheries were at or near their harvest rates.

So, wild fisheries cannot keep up with demand, and fish stocks world-wide are in big trouble. I fail to see how farming fish is going to help things out. In fact, fish farming could be quite bad for the planet if you read the above points and then imagine fish farming growing increasing all over the world. Surely the most obvious solution to this problem is to stop overfishing and overconsuming fish.

Fish feed contains two beta-carotenes, astaxanthin and canthaxanthin, which are found in nature as well. These carotenes provide salmon with the necessary nutrients for healthy grown and their beautiful colour. Wild salmon achieve their coloration from these same micronutrients by eating small crustaceans, like shrimp, which naturally contain high beta-carotene levels.

Again, thanks for the info, but if given the choice, I'm going to choose wild salmon that have eaten those small crustaceans instead of fish meal, thank you very much. Just like I choose buffalo meat that is free-range and grass-fed.


Farmed salmon are not fed steroids or hormones and rarely receive antibiotics. Similar to other farmed animals, if a fish is sick a veterinarian may recommend a treatment; this treated fish cannot be harvested until after a mandatory waiting period. In fact, fish farms use the least amount of antibiotics in the agriculture industry.

This may be true, but see the above point about vaccination. Obviously, there is a risk of sickness, otherwise there would be no need to vaccinate, and while the vaccinations might minimize the need for antibiotics later in the fish's life, we are still getting into a vicious circle that could have been eliminated easily by not introducing a foreign species into the environment in the first place.

This is just my two cents, of course. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Somehow, it seems genuinely stupid to try and farm Atlantic Salmon in the Pacific ocean. I also agree with you on the feed. A natural diet is way preferable to something concocted in a laboratory.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for posting this. People need to be more aware of how their food is being raised. I've never really thought about how farm fish were raised, and this doesn't make me want to go out and buy any anytime soon.

BumbleVee said...

a veterinarian hangs around overseeing thousands of fish and checks up on the sickies?...hehe ..... yearh, right....

the whole thing about farmed fish is too weird isn't it?


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