I am sure like me you have been shocked at recent news of over a hundred seals having been shot in the name of protecting fish farms in Scotland. I have long said that the true price of cheap salmon is dead seals. I have equally been critical of the main cause – the factory farming of fish at sea.
Fish farms are the forgotten factory farms under the water and one of the fastest growing sectors of intensive animal rearing. Around 100 billion farmed fish are produced globally each year, 30 billion more than all the chickens, cows, pigs and other terrestrial farm animals reared worldwide!
The farming of salmon is in itself unsustainable. Salmon are carnivorous fish, meaning that in essence, they need to be fed other fish. Many farmed fish are fed largely on wild fish. To produce one farmed salmon it takes about three times the weight of wild caught fish. This is hugely unsustainable, causing havoc to wild fish stocks, and in some countries such as Peru, huge environmental damage to the sea beds, that become so polluted from the fishmeal industry, they turn into sludge.
In addition, salmon are a migratory animal. In farming them, we curtail this basic behavioural need. The salmon confined to fish farms often endure intense confinement, filthy conditions, mistreatment and high levels of disease and parasites, such as sea lice. Kept in underwater cages, they never have the chance to swim freely or exercise their natural instincts, such as the powerful urge to migrate upstream each year.
If you buy fish, I would urge you to buy MSC certified wild-caught fish to ensure it is sustainable. If you do buy farmed fish, Soil Association organic ensures higher welfare standards.
Farmed fish isn’t sustainable for the environment, it isn’t providing basic welfare standards to the fish involved with their natural behaviours being stripped from them; and seals are being killed in order for profit to remain high.
In the Scottish salmon farming industry at the moment – seals versus salmon? There are no winners.