Especially if You’re a Seal, Sea Lion, Porpoise, Dolphin, Wild Salmon or the Environment

There are plenty of reasons to detest the practice of open net-cage salmon farming. It has disastrous impacts on marine wildlife and the environment since chemicals, parasites, diseases and un-natural concentrations of fish poop end up in waters surrounding the farms.


Some salmon farmers like to take credit for helping to “feed the world”. I was shocked to learn that farmed salmon are fed fish meal made from small wild fish like herring, anchovies and sardines. Most of these “feed” fish are harvested from oceans in the southern hemisphere. It takes from 1.5 to 8 kilograms of feed fish to produce 1 kilogram of farmed salmon and that’s entirely unsustainable by any standard. Removing massive quantities of small ocean fish from the food chain contributes much more to depleting wild fish stocks than supplementing available animal protein for the hungry masses. It may actually be straining the food supplies of poorer nations so richer ones can save a little money on a luxury food.


Salmon farmers definitely aren’t doing wild salmon populations any favor. The raging proliferation of sea lice in salmon farms results in unnatural concentrations of the planktonic parasites that spread to surrounding waters. Many heavily infested salmon farms are situated along coastal waterways that recently hatched salmon smolt must traverse to reach the open ocean. Obviously their chances of being attacked by sea lice are dramatically increased. Their puniness and under-developed scales make them especially vulnerable and one lousy sea louse can be enough to kill them. Baby fish out in the big blue ocean already have odds stacked high enough against them. The last thing we should ever do is anything that might tip the scale any further in favor of their demise. Needless to say, the more juveniles killed before reaching maturity the fewer mature adults to swim upstream and lay eggs. The math isn’t too encouraging and sea lice is only one of many threats salmon farms pose to wild salmon populations already decimated by commercial over-fishing. 


Salmon farmers have been accused of callous disregard for marine wildlife. By some self-serving standard a certain amount of “collateral damage” is acceptable in fish farming practice. Fish filching predators like seals, sea lions, dolphins and porpoises must be dealt with in the most expeditious manner. Since any sea-going carnivore is naturally attracted to a huge writhing mass of protein packed deliciousness, netting systems called “pred-nets” are deployed around net-cages to discourage would-be freeloaders. The unfortunate but acceptable consequence is that marine mammals become ensnared in the nets and drown. Some clever and persistent mammals manage to breach the netting barrier and those are simply shot for their resourcefulness.


With over 130 licensed farm sites in British Columbia alone, marine mammal deaths, deliberate or accidental, are reported quite frequently. Bottom line…salmon farms wreak havoc environmentally and endanger wild salmon populations as well as marine mammals. 


Closed Containment Aquaculture systems are currently in use in China, Canada, the US and other countries. These systems do not interface with the natural environment (or may have limited, controlled interface) and have already been proven economically viable for producing tilapia, trout and salmon. They eliminate or dramatically reduce environmental impacts, eliminate needless marine mammal deaths and halt or drastically reduce the transfer of diseases and parasites to wild salmon and other populations. On top of everything else......Closed Containment systems significantly decrease the necessity of antibiotics and chemical concoctions used for raising fish. Less chemical crap and a more natural artificially produced fish!


Don’t buy farmed fish of any kind, especially from China, unless you can confirm it is from a Closed Containment farm. Personally, I’ll avoid farmed fish altogether until the day I have no choice. Then…maybe I’ll just become a vegan.

Published by Bill Hoover