Farming salmon has a surprising list of impacts including on our health. Will you join the pledge to avoid it?
One million salmon meals are eaten in the UK every day. Are you sure you want to buy these products and drive 5 shocking impacts:
Salmon are extraordinary animals. They migrate hundreds of miles, returning to their rivers of origin to breed. They are also voracious carnivores and excellent hunters. In order to raise salmon on underwater factory farms the animals are fed a high protein feed which includes a high proportion of wild caught fish. Indiscriminate trawling hauls vast quantities of fish out of the oceans and also captures turtles, marine mammals and sea birds. The evidence shows that grinding wild fish up to feed salmon drives overfishing, poor animal welfare and disruption of aquatic food webs.
When we buy carnivorous farmed fish we are inadvertently killing wild marine animals as well.
Fish factory farms are disturbing places. The animals are crammed into pens at much higher densities than are found in the wild. Swimming endlessly in confinement the animals are prone to diseases and parasites. Recent undercover investigations into salmon farming have uncovered a series of horrific welfare abuses.
Mortality rates are sky high with 20 million animals a year dying on Scottish salmon farms alone. This mortality rate is far higher than for any other adult farmed animal. The BBC One Show uncovered enormous uncovered mass graves of the dead animals. The fish that survive live lives of unimaginable torment. The BBC Panorama programme - Salmon Farming Exposed heard of severe sea lice infestations on salmon in one loch, which were being essentially "eaten alive" by the parasites. Trapped inside the pens these intelligent animals cannot escape to cleaner waters.
Smoked salmon may look healthy and luxurious in the supermarket but the product may have come from diseased and damaged animals that have lived terrible lives.
Salmon factory farms are smelly and dirty places. Wild seals are like the dogs of the sea – they are curious and love to investigate exciting smelly discoveries. Sadly for them, salmon farmers view seals as pests and shoot them as soon as they get in site of the pens. If you buy farmed salmon - be aware that wild seals may have been killed to bring you that product.
Salmon farmers may even be shooting grey seals threatening an already endangered species. Unbelievably, even RSPCA Certified salmon farms are allowed to shoot seals and keep the labels that reassure unsuspecting customers. Some disillusioned RSPCA members are even threatening to quit after their head of campaigns described shooting seals as "humane pest control."
Scotland's wild salmon stocks are their 'lowest ever level'. The diseases that affect the salmon on farms can be transferred to the wild animals that swim past the cages. Recently, important Scottish wild salmon runs have been decimated by parasites and chemicals linked to local salmon farms. Wild salmon are disappearing. 2018 was Scotland’s worst salmon season in living memory. Some famous rivers like the Spey and the Nith recorded not a single salmon caught during the entire fishing season. Just two salmon were caught on the River Fyne in Argyll last year, where once more than 700 were caught each season. Half of Canada’s chinook salmon are endangered, with nearly all other populations in precarious decline, according to a new report, confirming fears that prospects for the species remain dire.
Some toxic chemicals such as cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) bioaccumulate up the food chain in carnivorous marine life. This means that although very dilute in seawater they accumulate in the fatty tissues of marine animals and the levels of pollution in top predators can become dangerously high. Tragically, scientists reported that one of the UK's last killer whales discovered in Scotland after becoming entangled in fishing lines was contaminated with "shocking" levels of the toxic chemical. Globally, a new study warns that all world's orcas are in trouble from a range of toxic chemicals released by industrial corporations.
A report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that most farmed salmon tested in the US contained PCBs at “levels that raise health concerns.” Just like with orcas the PCBs are bioaccumulating in the fish killed to be ground up into fish meal and then are found in the salmon. There may also be health risks associated with the pesticides used to kill sea lice and the dye added to farmed salmon to give it a pink colour.
Factory farming salmon has become a billion dollar a year industry and they can afford the best marketing. Don’t be fooled by the packaging. These products are riddled with serious issues and should be avoided like the plague.
To find out more – visit the following environmental and animal welfare organisations that are mobilising to challenge harmful fishing and aquaculture practices –