Farmed salmon is currently the most consumed seafood in North America, with almost 140 million served each year. Worldwide farmed salmon sales exceed $7 billion annually, and production continues to rise. The environmental impact of this booming industry has been widely publicized.
A third of the fish that are used for feed are wild-caught, which contributes to overfishing and the destruction of fragile marine ecosystems.
As a relatively new sustainable solution to food production, salmon ocean farming has been the subject of intensive environmental assessments.
The salmon ocean farming industry has been in operation for over 35 years. In that time, the industry has gone to great lengths to protect the environment from degradation of water quality. Some of the most important measures that have been taken include the following:
- Installation of state-of-the-art effluent treatment systems that remove more than 99% of the pollutants from the water before it is discharged back into the ocean.
- Use of clean, fresh seawater to minimize the impact on the surrounding environment.
- Close monitoring of all farms by independent environmental agencies to ensure compliance
The salmon ocean farming industry goes to great lengths to protect the environment and natural sea life from degradation of water quality.
Aquaculture is the farming and breeding of aquatic organisms, such as shellfish and fin fish. With an increasing world population and concerns about the environment, aquaculture has become a popular way for food production. Aquaculture does have some effects on the surrounding environment, but it’s minimal compared to other types of agriculture.
Minimizing Farmed Salmon Environmental Impact: Farm Locations
Salmon ocean farms are located in areas that minimize environmental impacts. Ocean farms are generally in deep water over sand and silt bottoms, areas that naturally support limited faunal diversity and productivity.
Strategic placement of salmon farms and monitoring of feeding combined with longish periods of inactivity help to dampen the effects of the pens. Any effects diminish rapidly with distance from the pens and disappear completely after about 500 feet.
As soon as the fish are fully harvested from a site, the effects naturally begin to reverse, with sediments returning to normal limits within a few months.
New Technologies and Techniques
Salmon waste and feed can often fall to the seabed beneath a salmon farm faster than marine life can consume it. This decomposition process temporarily affects the oxygen and chemical makeup in ocean-floor sediments. However, these changes are mitigated in a number of ways.
Numerous devices help ensure fish are not overfed, which reduces the amount of uneaten feed falling to the bottom. Newer feeds are also more efficiently digested, resulting in less generation of waste. Fish waste does not compare to human waste in that it generally does not spread disease—indeed, fish waste produces nutrients and even serves as food and fertilizer to other, lower marine species.
Research has indicated that even though salmon production levels have tripled since the 1980s, the environmental impact of waste has decreased by two-thirds in that same time.
Scientists have disputed whether or not salmon ocean farming increases the number of sea lice in certain marine areas. There are several recent studies that have refuted the claim that salmon ocean farming raises sea lice levels.
The salmon ocean farming industry has come a long way in protecting the environment from degradation of water quality. There are now many regulations in place to ensure that the industry does not have a negative impact on the environment.
One of the most important ways that the industry protects the environment is by monitoring water quality. There are now strict regulations governing how much waste can be released into the water, and companies are required to have detailed plans for managing their waste.
The industry has also made great strides in reducing its reliance on antibiotics. This is important, because the overuse of antibiotics can lead to the development of antibiotic resistent strains of pathogens.