Industrial fish farming could cause large scale harm to aquatic ecosystem integrity, to existing wild fisheries, and to coastal communities.
The problems associated with ocean fish farms are many. A few of the major concerns include:
- Caged fish escape through damage to cages from severe weather, hungry predators, or human error. These escaped fish, which are almost always a non-native species could and do displace native species or breed with wild populations (thus diluting natural genetic make-up).
- Fish farms often serve as incubators for disease that easily infect wild populations, even where fish do not leave the pens, and are often treated with large amounts of antibiotics.
- Antibiotics and other chemicals, which are used to treat both the fish and the net pens that hold them, spread beyond the immediate enclosures and pollute the surrounding environment.
- Water pollution levels from fish food and waste, including ammonia, chlorophyll, nitrates, phosphates, and suspended solids, are very high and harmful to the ecosystem.
- Caged fish are often fed wild species, such as squid, sardines and other small coastal fish or feeds containing wild species in the form of oil or meal. This leads to a net loss of protein because more wild fish are required to feed the farmed fish than are produced by the farms. Three pounds of fish, for example, are used to grow one pound of farmed salmon. Marine mammals, birds, and other wild fish, moreover, depend on the availability and abundance of such prey for food for their own survival.
- The cage netting and anchor lines pose entanglement hazards to other marine wildlife.
- During storms, the cages can break apart, creating marine debris and damage to bottom habitat from the cage anchors.
Currently, there is no national network for the diverse groups that are committed to ensuring that industrial marine finfish and shrimp farming does no harm to ecosystem integrity, to existing wild fisheries, or to coastal communities. Yet there is a growing need for a clear, strong message to policy makers and the public about the potential dangers of open ocean aquaculture can pose to our environment, our natural resources and those that depend on them. A bill to allow fish farming in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has been introduced by the Bush Administration through the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the proposals for marine aquaculture facilities in state waters are sky-rocketing.
IFR, along with several active partners, is working to developed a new marine fish farming network to coordinate and assist commercial and recreational fishermen, conservation/environmental groups, Native American/First Nations, consumer and food safety groups, and other North American and Pacific stakeholders in efforts to ensure that industrial fish farming does no harm to aquatic ecosystem integrity, to existing wild fisheries, or to coastal communities. The main intent of the network is to provide a unified group that can respond to the United States governmentâ€™s move toward marine fish farming in federal waters and to facilitate education, training, and information sharing so local groups are more successful in responding to local fish farming proposals.
CHECK OUT THE WILD FISH COALITION website for more information.