Gadget Magazines Only See One Side of Aquaculture
By Rich Bindell
Magazines devoted to modern gadgetry and technological advances are quick to write stories about science making our lives better. But they often gloss over the unanswered questions that hover over these “life-improving” inventions. DVICE had it right when they said that, “some strange aquaculture is going on,” off the coast of Hawaii. Unfortunately, they seem unaware of just how destructive strange can be when you put a factory fish farm in the middle of the ocean.
DVICE’s August 14 article touting aquaculture didn’t surprise me at all. It’s probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve seen a tech or gadget rag do a misleading story on how aquaculture is going to have a positive affect on seafood production. But articles like this one are so one-sided that it’s easy to mistake them for a press release for the aquaculture industry, and particularly for Kampachi Farms.
While Kampachi Farms’ experiment—called the Velella Project—was admittedly small, confining thousands of fish in pod-like cage is still similar in many respects to the land-based factory farm model, and it’s not exactly sustainable. Factory fish farming requires feed, and a lot of it. This feed is usually made from smaller, wild-caught fish processed into meal and oil, and extensive fishing of these small fish can unbalance the food chain of natural predators that depend upon them.
Where alternative feeds like soy meal are being partially included in the diet of farmed fish, like in the case of Kampachi Farms, there are still serious issues. Fish don’t naturally feed on soy and it is questionable whether or not they benefit from soy in their diet. Since 93 to 94 percent of the soybeans produced in the U.S. in 2009 were genetically modified according to Monsanto patents, consumers will likely be eating GMO in their seafood, which probably won’t be labeled.
Moreover, when large numbers of fish are contained in close quarters, it promotes disease, which can spread among the fish, threatening the health of ocean life on both sides of the aquapod. And the wastes from these pods flow directly into the ocean.
Food & Water Watch has been following Kampachi’s activities for quite some time. In fact, we filed a lawsuit against National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) because they lacked the statutory authority to issue a fishing permit to Kampachi, and because they did so without conducting a rigorous environmental study of the project’s impacts. This case is currently on appeal. Consumers should know about this since Kona’s venture was supported in part by American taxpayers.
DVICE called the Velella Project a success in their article. We don’t see that there is much reason to proclaim success and we’d like to gently encourage DVICE to look at both sides of the issue. The company has rejected the idea of trying another attempt with the supposed environmental benefits of dragging pods around in the deep open ocean waters. They’ve also been strangely quiet about losing two empty net pens while they tried to tow them out to sea in the spring of 2011.
Technological advances are wonderful to celebrate when we get it right. But aquaculture isn’t an advancement so long as it continues to threaten the health of our oceans and marine life.