As we strive to create a more sustainable world, managing the food chain is one of the most important subjects we deal with. In the case of seafood, harvesting wild fish using industrial style fishing methods has resulted in depleted fisheries. Raising fish in commercial farms has become a popular alternative, but the practice is now criticized by many environmentalists.
In a surprise move, Target recently announced that it has eliminated all farmed salmon from its fresh, frozen, and smoked seafood offerings in Target stores nationwide and further stated that salmon sold under Target owned brands will now be wild-caught Alaskan salmon.
“Target strives to be a responsible steward of the environment, while also providing our guests with the highest-quality food choices,” said Greg Duppler, senior vice president, merchandising, Target. “Our guests now have an array of sustainable seafood choices at great prices.”
This news comes on the heals of a Pew Environment Group report, Pew Cautions Against Unregulated Fish Farms in U.S. Federal Waters, issued last November which raised concerns about the creation of fish farms in U.S. waters without proper Federal regulation.
“The recent escapes of tens of thousands of farmed salmon from the pens in several primary producing countries serve a grim reminder that the environmental impacts of salmon farming remain to be addressed,” said Gerald Leape, senior officer at the Pew Environment Group.
“These massive escapes also reinforce the point that any open ocean aquaculture legislation approved by Congress must have strong mandatory standards that prevent environmental impacts by farms that are built in U.S. waters.”
Not only do the lice suck the lifeblood from the young fish, but the wounds are also an open door for harmful bacteria and viruses. Previous research suggests that juvenile mortality linked to lice-infested farms can be as high as 95 percent, says Martin Krkošek of the University of Washington in Seattle.
Farmed Salmon Issues
- It’s bad for wild salmon. Approximately three million farmed salmon escape from their pens each year, jeopardizing endangered wild salmon populations with genetic dilution.
- It spreads disease. The crowded conditions of salmon farming pens provide ideal conditions for the outbreak of parasites and disease, such as infectious salmon anemia, which caused the collapse of the industry in 2007. The diseases are often transferred to the wild salmon as they swim past the caged salmon. As a result of the overcrowding and potential for disease transfer, the industry uses high doses of pesticides and antibiotics on the fish, including the quinolone family of antibiotics, which are meant for use only in humans.
- It’s wasteful. Carnivorous farmed salmon consume wild caught fish for food, competing directly with humans and other fish species for this diminishing resource. In Chile, it can take 8 kilograms of fish from the world’s oceans to produce 1 kilogram of farmed salmon. Some of the fisheries that feed salmon — anchoveta, sardines, jack mackerel — are now becoming over-exploited as a result, which has consequences for the entire ocean food chain.
- It’s bad for your health. Farmed salmon contains high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other dangerous contaminants, and the widespread use of antibiotics and pesticides may lead to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (Plus, It is dyed “salmon” color because its natural color would be grey from it’s artificial diet.)
What are your thoughts on farm-raised salmon – is this a sustainable practice?