Even though many claim it is a “green” alternative to endangered wild fish, it is difficult to imagine a fish farm industry that can meet any real definition of sustainability. Aquaculture just repeats the industrial processes of land-based intensive factory meat farms that many already reject.
Fish farms are not a replacement for wild fish because of:
- High levels waste flowing into and degrading or destroying surrounding waters or habitats already overtaxed by other industrial waste (eg, from agriculture or oil and gas industries).
- Low animal welfare, including high levels of disease.
- High levels of chemicals required to treat disease, which also degrade surrounding waters.
- High levels of fish feed required. Even by 2001 nearly a quarter of the world’s fish supplies were diverted to support fish farming. This adds to pressure on wild populations, rather than alleviating it. Reliance on soya is no better, as the problems associated with industrial monoculture, and especially GMOs, are many and growing.
- Damage to wild populations: escaped farmed fish outcompete wild fish and spread disease, as seen in the deterioration of the Scottish wild salmon population and the rural jobs they bring.
Farmed fish can’t legitimately be called “organic” either. In addition to everything above, fish farming is not in keeping with the spirit of organic production as fish farms are clearly not environmentally sustainable. Learn more about organic aquaculture certification.
Fish farms are often said to provide good, “green” jobs, but it is not clear that they are either technically possible or economically viable: each pound of fish produced costs much more in subsidies (so consumers pay twice), while increased production drives prices down and the jobs often don’t last as farms increase their “efficiency”.
Food & Water Europe are taking a hard look at fish farming and its regulation. Fish produced in closed systems where all inputs and outputs are controlled and contained may work, and might be considered organic. Much smaller-scale, traditional local aquaculture, as practiced in Asia, might work. Until then, thoughtfully caught wild fish from healthy stocks are the only responsible choice.