Majority of seafood to be farmed

THE day when the majority of seafood will be farmed is fast-approaching, adding to concerns among environmentalists fearful for the conservation of wild stocks, especially salmon.

A campaign in Ireland boycotts farmed salmon products and this has echoes in Canada — the fourth largest producer of farmed fish and source of most of our tinned salmon — where organised opposition is also stepping up.

Fish farming, or aquaculture, is the fastest-growing food-production activity, accounting for 50% of the food produce of the sea, according to UN statistics. Plans to further develop the industry here — via proposals for a fish farm in Galway Bay and an expansion of an operation in Bantry Bay — have sparked the boycott campaign by an umbrella group led by the Friends of the Irish Environment.

The Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA) aquaculture section has described the campaign as sabotage, claiming that it threatens jobs and enterprises in coastal communities. Due to the decline in wild salmon stocks and the ban on drift netting, nearly all salmon consumed here is farmed and is a huge seller, particularly smoked salmon, of which numerous home and overseas brands are in the supermarkets. Smoked salmon was once an expensive treat, but see how reasonably-priced and popular the smoked fish has become.

Campaigns against fish farming have been waged for decades, but have little effect on people who either are not interested, allow price to govern their shopping decisions, or are not influenced by environmental/health issues. Opponents have highlighted how farmed salmon are fed and reared in open-mesh nets at sea, the spread of sea lice to wild stocks and interbreeding with wild salmon. The nets are supported with steel frameworks and contain massive amounts of fish.

If the Galway Bay and Bantry Bay proposals proceed, there will be a substantial increase in output, reflecting a global trend. Canada has had a four-fold jump in production in the last 20 years and applications for new leases are increasing. A campaign is calling on Canadians to stop purchasing salmon raised in open-net feedlots. According to SalmonFeedlotBoycott.com (SFB), there is concern that wild fisheries and marine environments are being irreversibly harmed by industrial salmon feedlots, and this has global implications.

SFB coordinator Anissa Reed says up to a million fish can be reared at a single site, with large amounts of excess feed and waste falling to the ocean floor.

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