Earlier in the year I wrote a blog about the negative aspects of raising farmed salmon on the marine ecosystem (Why I No Longer Eat Farmed Salmon). My main concern at the time, with the information I had, was that the high concentration of farmed salmon raised in large pens along coastal waters tends to concentrate the feces and excess food pellets on the bottom of the bay beneath the cages, which tends to multiply the spread of salmon lice and other parasites, which then infect the wild salmon as they migrate through the area, increasing mortality. In addition, the pesticides used by the salmon farms to keep the caged salmon healthy were also being added to the ecosystem in huge quantities.
So, bad farming techniques are potentially damaging the wild salmon populations, and as a dedicated fisherman that really bothers me.
Well, I only knew the tip of the iceberg. In reality, the story is much worse, for wild salmon the world over, and for humans who eat farm-raised salmon.
Two incredibly virulent fish viruses, ISA (Infectious Salmon Anemia virus) and Piscine Reovirus, which causes the heart tissue to turn soft, making the heart inefficient at pumping blood and oxygen. Wild salmon infected with piscine reovirus tend to die before they get a chance to spawn due to their strenuous upriver migrations to the spawning grounds. However, those fish in farmed cages infected with the virus can live and grow “normally”. And I say normally because now more and more supermarket packaged salmon from salmon farms in the UK, US, Canada and Norway are being shown to contain both ISA and piscine reovirus infections.
And here’s where it gets really stupid. The governments of these countries are allowing the mega fish farm corporations, like Marine Harvest (a Norwegian company) to stock their farms with fish knowingly infected with both viruses. And these are highly infectious viruses which easily spread to wild salmon stocks.
In my estimation, Marine Harvest runs its company with an eye solely on the profit and loss statements, and not on the environmental impact, what we now view as sustainable corporate responsibility. Recently, Marine Harvest’s operations have been severely affected in the south of Chile, where millions of fish have died by the disease infectious salmon anemia, virtually wiping out the farmed salmon industry in Chile in 2009-2010. The rapid propagation of the virus in Chile has motivated Marine Harvest to sell some of its facilities, firing more than a thousand employees, with the aim of moving its installations further south.
Parasitic, viral and fungal infections are all disseminated when the fish are stressed and the pens are too close together, and a spokesman for Marine Harvest recognized that his company was using too many antibiotics in Chile and that fish pens were too close, contributing to the dramatic proliferation of the ISA virus.
And now, to protect the multi-million dollar salmon farming industry, the government of Canada has declared that fish infected with ISA and other viruses pose no threat to human consumption. This doesn’t look healthy:
Here’s what is happening to the Fraser River wild Sockeye salmon stocks since the introduction of salmon farms along the Fraser River salmon migration route in the early 1990s. They have plummeted. Coincidence? Nature doesn’t do coincidences!
And here’s the scary part: scientists don’t know the effect on humans from eating farm raised salmon pumped full of steroids, pesticides and infected with ISA and piscine reovirus. Here is a comparison of wild vs farm raised salmon. And as someone who has caught and eaten wild salmon, let me tell you they taste much better than the fatty, flabby farmed ones!
And here’s another sad fact that fools the consumer. Wild salmon in my local supermarket is about £12 per kilo, while farmed salmon is about £3. Inexpensive, but what about the real costs to the environment, wild salmon populations, and our own health?
Do some Internet and Google research yourself before you reach for that cheap farmed salmon!
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress