Fishy Business: Factory Fish Farms Not Going Anywhere

By: Saira Malhotra

According to Civil Eats, it appears that greed has thrown us under the bus yet again. We have allowed our land to be ravaged by our insatiable demands for more chicken, beef, pork and we are consciously paying the price. With 'factory farming' becoming part of our household diction, not only does it apply to chicken farms and milking parlors - milking it for more than it is worth, but it also now applies to fish.

Just like land animals, factory farmed fish, are jammed like a can of sardines in open net pens. Perhaps they are being primed for their ultimate eventuality of appearing on a shelf or frozen to a bread-crumbed ice pop. Whatever is driving this increased demand in fish, it couldn't be clearer that such habitation would impact anyone's ability to thrive without harm done, even if the harm was purely karmic.

These pens are an infestation of germs, yet, we have managed to take care of that too. To avoid fish falling sick and infecting one another, their feed has been reinforced with antibiotics. However, many believe that we have outwitted ourselves. The unconsumed feed, antibiotics and chemicals pour right in to the ocean and where do you think it flows from there?   The impact to the environment is detrimental. Not only do these chemicals land up in our bellies, but they also impact the life of wild fish. Each year, a significant number of fish escape from the pens and breed with their wild counterparts brining about a loss in some genetic traits. They also infect the wild fish with 'factory farm' diseases and according to Civil Eats, have a hand in threatening the wild salmon population in places like Washington State and California.

Despite the consequences, according to the Food and Water Watches latest report, the federal government is still looking to expand the industry. In its quest to make supply meet demand and desire to import less sea food, the country is looking to produce 200 million fish in our cages. These fish farms will reside in federal waters and the gulf of Mexico leaving us with even more nitrogenous waste to embrace. It is also feared that at least 1 million fish will escape each year, if not 34.8 million, not to mention the advent of another hurricane hitting the gulf and letting them all run free.

Factory farmed fish is met by much opposition from environmentalists, consumers, coastal communities and is considered highly irresponsible. Their feathers are further ruffled as the government has already spent $44 million on this industry and continue to support it at the cost of sustaining wild fisheries. Many assert that there are other alternatives available that are more sustainable and less harmful to the environment, such as closed system farms that use plants to purify water and reside on land, making it impossible for fish to escape. While these sustainable options don't solve food insecurity, it is an illusion to think that factory farming does.

Photo: quinet

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