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Salmon- 7 impacts of aquiculture 04.08.10

Once a luxury food, salmon is now one of the most popular fish species in the United States, Europe and Japan. Total salmon production has increased three-fold since 1980 to meet this demand. The largest growth has been in farmed, not wild caught, salmon. Approximately 60 percent (1.26 million metric tons) of the world’s salmon comes from fish farms. Source:WWF

Norway and Chile produce close to two-thirds of the world’s farmed salmon. Norway is an ideal location for farming salmon, as most of its coastline is protected from storm surges and waves and the water temperatures are favorable. Chile’s extensive coastal areas and close proximity to a large and clean source of fish meal make it a prime location for salmon aquaculture. Other significant producers include the United Kingdom and Canada.

Farmed salmon are most commonly grown in cages or pens in semi-sheltered coastal areas, such as bays or sea lochs. The cages — usually large, floating mesh cages — are designed to hold salmon but are open to the marine environment. Juvenile salmon are hatched and raised to become smolts in freshwater before they are transferred to these marine open systems to grow.

Main impacts of salmon aquaculture The rapid expansion of the salmon aquaculture industry has not come without impacts - both real and perceived. The seven key environmental and social impacts are:

- Benthic impacts and siting: Chemicals and excess nutrients from food and - feces associated with salmon farms can disturb the flora and fauna on the ocean bottom (benthos).

- Chemical inputs: Excessive use of chemicals - such as antibiotics, anti-foulants and pesticides - or the use of banned chemicals can have unintended consequences for marine organisms and human health.

- Disease/parasites: Viruses and parasites can transfer between farmed and wild fish, as well as among farms.

- Escapes: Escaped farmed salmon can compete with wild fish and interbreed with local wild stocks of the same population, altering the overall pool of genetic diversity.

- Feed: A growing salmon farming business must control and reduce its dependency upon fishmeal and fishoil - a primary ingredient in salmon feed - so as not to put additional pressure on the world’s fisheries. Fish caught to make fishmeal and oil currently represent one-third of the global fish harvest.

- Nutrient loading and carrying capacity: Excess food and fish waste in the water have the potential to increase the levels of nutrients in the water. This can cause the growth of algae, which consumes oxygen that is meant for other plant and animal life.

- Social issues: Salmon farming often employs a large number of workers on farms and in processing plants, potentially placing labor practices and worker rights under public scrutiny. Additionally, conflicts can arise among users of the shared coastal environment.

Peter Shield

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World Wildlife Fund

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1 Comment

  • WWF welcomes standards to make salmon industry more sustainable

    4 August 2010 20:34, by Peter Shield

    Draft standards to improve the environmental and social sustainability of the salmon aquaculture industry were released yesterday for public comment.

    They were produced by the Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue: a 500-person roundtable that includes salmon aquaculture industry leaders, scientists and representatives from non-governmental organizations.

    The standards, which are expected to be finalized in approximately six months, will be the first global standards for salmon aquaculture created through an open, transparent process that is aligned with the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling Alliance’s renowned guidelines for creating standards.

    “One of our priorities has been getting as many people as possible engaged in the process so that we can tap into their expertise and on-the-ground experiences,” said Katherine Bostick of WWF, who coordinates the Dialogue. “This is reflected in the draft standards document, which includes innovative standards that will help change the way salmon is farmed worldwide.”

    The first comment period will end on Oct. 3, 2010. The second comment period will begin approximately two months later.

    The Dialogue seeks to minimize or eliminate the key negative impacts associated with salmon aquaculture, such as sea lice spreading from salmon farms, escaped farmed salmon interbreeding with wild salmon populations, and conflicts within communities regarding shared coastal resources. < BR>

    Salmon aquaculture is responsible for producing two-thirds of the salmon consumed worldwide. The remaining salmon is wild-caught.

    Numerous multi-day Dialogue meetings geared toward sharing information and discussing ideas on how to shape the standards have been held in key salmon producing regions – including Norway, Chile, Scotland and British Columbia – since the process began in 2004.

    Feedback was also provided during previous public comment periods held in 2008 and 2009 to vet the draft principles, criteria and indicators, as well as outreach meetings over the last several years with salmon industry stakeholders. Experts assisted, as needed, in evaluating salmon-related science to help shape the draft standards.

    “We’ve come a long way and are excited about the progress that has been made in creating the standards,” added Petter Arnesen of Marine Harvest, a member of the nine-person Steering Committee that manages the

    Dialogue process. “The Steering Committee is eager to get feedback during this comment period that will help us revise the standards and wrap up the process.”

    The start of the public comment period is a major milestone for the Aquaculture Dialogues, a set of eight roundtables working to create measurable and performance-based standards for responsible aquaculture.

    Six sets of draft standards (pangasius, freshwater trout, abalone, shrimp, bivalves and salmon) are in the process of being reviewed or finalized and one set of standards (tilapia) is finalized. All of the standards are expected to be completed within approximately six months.

    The standards will be amended periodically to reflect changes in science and technology, as well as to encourage innovation and continuous improvement. These revisions will be coordinated by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), the new entity being developed to manage the standards, and the process will include many of the Dialogue participants.

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