Urgent change needed in aquaculture industry, says Greenpeace Published: 29 January, 2008
THE global aquaculture industry is not a solution to overfishing and must dramatically change in order to become sustainable, says a new Greenpeace report.
‘Challenging the Aquaculture Industry on Sustainability’, which was presented to the 2008 Seafood Summit in Barcelona yesterday, documents how fish farming is damaging marine and freshwater ecosystems by destroying coasts to make way for ponds, polluting water with fecal waste and depleting wild fish caught for feed and farm stock, according to Greenpeace.
“Many of the most serious environmental impacts of aquaculture are happening here in Canadian waters, and it’s time the Canadian government ensured the industry takes responsibility for the damage being caused,” said Sarah King, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace Canada. “With continued reports of lice from farmed fish infecting wild B.C. salmon, and pollution plaguing bays and inlets on our East Coast, it’s clear we’re nowhere near farming fish in a sustainable way.”
Aquaculture, one of the fastest growing sectors of the food industry, already provides nearly half of all fish consumed by people. As wild fish stocks continue to decline, the demand for farmed shrimp, salmon, tuna, tilapia and other finfish has risen.
However, Greenpeace says that “cheap, abundant seafood” has come at a price. The report, which was prepared by the Greenpeace research lab at the University of Exeter, claims to gives an overview of some of the harmful environmental and social impacts aquaculture. These include destruction of habitat, the effects of escaped farm fish on wild species, depletion of wild stock caught for feed, disruption to the natural food chain, and the threat to food security.
“Human rights abuses, which are often forgotten in the aquaculture debate, plague shrimp farming with reports finding abuses in 11 countries. In Bangladesh alone about 150 murders linked to aquaculture have been reported,” Greenpeace says.
“The report highlights the devastating impacts nutrient pollution from fecal matter and wasted feed has on whole ecosystems. A salmon farm of 200,000 fish releases roughly the same amount of fecal matter as the untreated sewage of 65,000 people. Many salmon farms in the Pacific Northwest have four to five times that number of fish. Because few species can survive the oxygen-deprived environment created by waste feed and feces, biodiversity in such areas has decreased,” the NGO continues.
According to Greenpeace, research near finfish farms in the Bay of Fundy, Canada found that diversity decreased significantly up to 200 metres away from the cages after five years of operation.
To address these problems, the report offers specific recommendations for the industry to move towards sustainability and calls on retailers to buy only from sustainable aquaculture operations.
“Retailers also have a role to play by refusing to support destructive fishing practices including unsustainable aquaculture. By removing these fish from their shelves, they can be part of the solution and help clean up the problem,” said King.
Greenpeace concluded by saying it believes that aquaculture and industrial fisheries can only be sustainable if a truly ecosystem-based management approach is adopted, within a global network of fully protected marine reserves that incorporate 40 per cent of the oceans.
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