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Protest against fish farming in British Columbia.

Salmon farming

From the highlands of Scotland to the Pacific waters of Chile, salmon faming is big business. In Chile alone, the export revenue generated from salmon farming now exceeds US$1 billion each year, a figure that is expected to double in the next few years. Supporters of industrial fish farming have long asserted that this so-called 'blue revolution' is both cheap and a sustainable alternative to the consumption of highly depleted wild-caught fish species

Salmon farming

However, the readily available, artificially red salmon flesh on salein the luxury shops across the western world doesn't reveal the rampantdestruction that this industry causes in regions where the fish areproduced. Expanding at a rapid rate, fish farming now accounts for over30 percent of all fish protein consumed annually in the world. But itis single-handedly responsible for the destruction of countlessecosystems and the fishing communities that rely upon them, in some ofthe most vulnerable marine environments on the planet.

Salmon farming involves the raising and feeding of vast numbers of fishin small contained net pens. A typical farm may contain up to a dozenpens with anything from ten to 15000 fish in each pen.

Intensive feeding

The feeding requirement of carnivorous farmed fish species such assalmon or tuna undermine the often-repeated myth that industrial fishfarming offers a solution to over-fishing. To grow a pound of salmon itis necessary to catch up to five pounds of oily fish species, likeherring, sand-eel, sardine and mackerel, to process into fish feed.These fish are literally vacuumed up out of the ocean, upsetting thebalance of marine ecosystems.

In British Columbia, Canada and Chile the killer whales, dolphins, seals andsealions that once frequented their territorial estuaries, are nowshot, trapped, deprived of food or simply repelled with devicesinvented by the salmon farmers to protect their stock.

Disease

As with all forms of intensive livestock rearing, the highconcentration of salmon in each net also encourages the spread ofdisease. It is common to regularly dose farmed fish with antibiotics intheir food to protect against disease. Ultimately this  leads tothe presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria being found in thesediments under the pens. These bacteria could pose a risk to humanconsumers as well as to the wider ecosystem in which the nets areplaced. The nets are typically located in the fast-flowing waters ofestuary heads, so that the toxic faeces, uneaten food pellets,parasitic lice, dead fish, escaped non-native fish as well as chemicaland antibiotic residues, are distributed over the whole estuarineecosystem.

A typical salmon farm of 200 000 fish produces roughly the same amountof faecal matter as a town of 62 000 people. The release of thisnoxious cocktail into the surrounding waters of salmon farms threatensthe very survival of smaller, native salmon species, the predators thatrely on them and the future of sustainable fishing practices andcommunities that rely upon clean and healthy oceans.

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