Global Salmon Industry Boom Raises Ecological Concerns

A recent report by Fidra highlights the devastating ecological consequences of the global salmon aquaculture industry's rapid growth. The industry's environmental impacts include waste, sea lice, disease, and plastic waste, prompting calls for sustainable production methods.

Trim Correspondents
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Global Salmon Industry Boom Raises Ecological Concerns

Global Salmon Industry Boom Raises Ecological Concerns

The global salmon aquaculture industry has experienced rapid growth over the past 50 years, with a significant surge in the last two decades. While it supports many jobs in coastal and island communities and is the top food export for the UK, a recent report by Fidra, an environmental charity, has sounded the alarm on the industry's devastating ecological consequences.

Why this matters: The unchecked growth of the salmon industry poses a significant threat to the health of our oceans and the ecosystems they support, with far-reaching consequences for the environment and human communities that depend on them. If left unaddressed, the ecological damage caused by the industry could have a lasting impact on the planet's biodiversity and ecosystems.

The report highlights the industry's significant environmental impacts, including organic and chemical waste, sea lice infection, disease, and plastic waste. It also reveals the lack of a global framework to monitor the industry's environmental impact, with individual countries having their own regulations. The report examines the regulations in seven countries: Norway, Chile, Scotland, Faroe Islands, Canada, Australia, and Iceland.

The top five largest production volumes in 2022 came from MOWI (Norway), Salmar (Norway), AquaChile (Chile), Leroy Seafood (Norway), and Cermaq (Norway, operates in Canada, Chile, and Norway). Cermaq Canada recently reached an agreement with Veramaris to conduct trials of a salmon feed infused with algal oil at multiple farms in British Columbia. "Testing Veramaris algal oil in our salmon feed is a significant step towards supporting our fish health, product quality, and sustainability goals while reducing our dependence on marine resources," said German Campos of Cermaq Canada.

The Fidra report details the environmental concerns associated with the salmon aquaculture industry, including waste pollution from feed, feces, and chemical waste filtering into the wider environment, the spread of sea lice affecting wild Scottish salmon, and the industry's impact on wildlife through pesticides, plastics, and acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs). Noise pollution in the marine environment is also a growing concern, with sources including shipping, marine renewables, and the military.

In response to these ecological concerns, the BIOCLOSED project, a research initiative focused on sustainable salmon production, is exploring the use of closed-containment systems in sea-based salmon farming. These systems have shown promising biological and environmental results, including increased growth, shorter production periods, better control of the cage environment, and less environmental impact. However, more research is needed to determine optimal fish density for a good cage environment and fish health in closed systems.

The Fidra report serves as a warning, urging governments and companies to take action to mitigate the ecological disaster that looms large due to the global salmon industry boom. While the industry is an important source of cheaper food and employment, its environmental cost remains unknown. The BIOCLOSED project, led by senior researcher Pascal Klebert and financed by the Norwegian Seafood Research and Fund (FHF), aims to address these concerns and promote sustainable salmon production from 2024 to 2026.

Key Takeaways

  • Salmon aquaculture industry's rapid growth poses ecological threats to oceans and ecosystems.
  • Industry's environmental impacts include waste, sea lice, disease, and plastic waste.
  • Lack of global framework to monitor industry's environmental impact, with varying country regulations.
  • Closed-containment systems in sea-based salmon farming show promising biological and environmental results.
  • Urgent action needed from governments and companies to mitigate ecological disaster from salmon industry boom.