Friday, 4 July 2008

Fish feedlots: farmed and dangerous

Atlantic salmon: Gilbert van Ryckevorsel,

See Alexandra Morton's 2007 video explaining damage to natural ecosystems to shareholders of Cermaq, the world's 2nd largest salmon-farm company.

This week 30,000 farmed salmon escaped a Marine Harvest pen into Vancouver Island waters, further endangering native wild stocks threatened by overfishing and climate change, on top of toxics and sea lice* from the farms. The company (currently the world's largest salmon-farmer, after multiple multinational mergers) is not sure whether any fish are left in the pen. This may be the final blow to many native stocks. Previous escapes had impacts as far away as Washington State and Alaska.
First Nations and environmentalists long warned about environmental impacts, after the disasters in Norway, Scotland, and Ireland, while corporate friends in national and local governments denied, debated and delayed. Delay meant millions of dollars in profits. From just 10% of food salmon in 1986, fish farms captured 60% of global markets by 2005. BC-based farms now gross $300m/year, but this is only 4% of world salmon production, dominated by four powerful multinationals, which have been out of control for decades. Faced with strict regulation or local disasters, the companies simply move on to new territory.
For example: 5 years ago biologist Alexandra Morton proved native claims that fish farms were creating a plague of sea lice. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans paid scientists to shed doubt on her conclusions. Provincial lawyers aided the seafood companies. The industry lobby published denials, winning a profitable delay, until independent scientists produced confirming evidence. As recently as January 2008, the BC government boasted the industry's compliance with “the toughest standards in the world”. Critics warned about dangers to wild stocks; they said government support of the lobby's claims about "open-net cages... and the regulations that we have, then everything's fine,” was blind optimism. The critics were right.
Fisheries scientists (sworn to secrecy by their government employers and funders of university grants) whisper that all native salmon on the Pacific coast of Canada and USA will reach the tipping point in 6 years (species usually collapse after 80% loss). Salmon extinction will doubtless be treated by the stock markets as a profitable opportunity – both for speculation in the dwindling resource, and another opportunity for industrial aquaculture.
Other impacts
Fishfarm disease outbreaks in Puerto Montt, Chile (the latest branch plant of Marine Harvest) despite the usual massive doses of antibiotics and toxic chemicals? The ratio of fishmeal to final product? Extinction of other food species? Invasive jellyfish and algae? Impacts on the world's poor people? Bottom trawls? Fish piracy? Whaling “research” kills for the tables of Tokyo? Oil spills? Bush administration plans (from two industry lobbies, oilcos and fishcos) to use Gulf oil rigs as fish farms? The great Pacific garbage swirl? Growing dead zones? Coral bleaching like the canary in the mine? Shrimp farms that pollute as badly as a major city? Junk scientists who deliberately create plankton blooms as the answer to climate change? Don't get us started. 

Updates: reported fish escapes 1996-2012
Sea lice: see this Oct 2013 update from Norway
See many other videos on Youtube including Calling from the Coast videos
Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) Farmed and dangerous website with the latest scientific reports, its attempts to reform an out-of-control industry and government policies
Dive BC underwater wildlife photos
Ecotrust: The Hidden Costs of Farmed Salmon
Canada DFO's research to turn fishplant effluent into profit
US report on aquaculture as a gateway for invasive species
Stanford University research led by Rosamond L Naylor on the crying need for US regulations, and sustainable aquaculture's checklist of world aquaculture companies and lobbies
Wikipedia on worldwide aquaculture
US salmon stocks from Washington to California threatened by global warming: Oregonian 6 Jan 08

Corpwatch reports on fish farming and aquaculture
Greenpeace Red List of endangered fish species, and analysis of causes
Previous post on Prof. Callum Roberts' study of world fish extinctions.

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