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Bill Cole
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OSLO, Norway - Fish farming, a growing global industry, can be a major
contributor in feeding the world's hungry and help fight poverty, fishery
experts told an international conference Thursday.

An increasing number of people depend on aquaculture - the farming of fish,
crustaceans and aquatic plants - with some 1 billion people satisfying
protein needs from eating fish, researchers said.

"Aquaculture is the only way to fill the gap between growing demand and
supply in the future," Jiansan Jia, from the U.N. Food and Agriculture
Organization, said.

As wild fish stocks continue to dwindle, often due to overfishing, fish
farming has increased in importance, Jia said at the opening of the meeting
in Trondheim, 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of the capital, Oslo.

Aquaculture provides about 36 percent of people's daily protein intake - 4
percent more than in 1970 - and is growing annually by 10 percent, providing
more jobs, he added.

It is the world's fastest growing food industry that uses animals as raw
materials, with most of it on small, family owned farms, while industrial
aquaculture accounts for just 13 percent of total world production.

It is well-suited to poor, rural areas, according to Rohana Subasinghe, a
U.N. fisheries resource officer.

"The potential contribution of aquaculture to rural development, food
security, hunger eradication, poverty reduction and national economic
development is enormous," Subasinghe said. "We used to say 'aquaculture
development,' but we should say 'aquaculture for development.'"

But the industry is plagued by environmental issues, health hazards and debt
problems as companies strive for mass production.

Environmentalists and the industry agree that the use of animal antibiotics
and dioxins in farmed fish pose health concerns, seabeds are damaged by fish
cages and farmed fish that escape can harm wild stocks.

In Norway, the second-largest seafood exporter in the world, banks have
taken over the management of more than half the country's largest
fish-farming outfits after debt defaults.

The Nordic country of 4.5 million estimates that its seafood operations last
year were worth some 11 billion kroner (US$1.5 billion), largely due to

Some 150 experts from 50 countries were at the five-day meeting in Trondheim
to discuss how to raise safety standards of producers worldwide, improve
profits and better plan aquaculture.

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Bill Cole
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Eating Responsibly: The Future of Seafood Farming
(From Winter/Spring 1999)

by Nano Riley

Americans are becoming a nation of fish lovers. Local supermarkets dazzle
shoppers with tempting displays of creamy-white flounder and cod, rosy
salmon filets or mounds of shrimp heaped over ice and garnished with lemon
slices and parsley. These eye-pleasing arrays of the sea’s bounty are
designed to tantalize, and it works. Seafood sales are soaring. With the
exception of a few major port cities, such a variety of fish would have been
unheard of a few years ago, yet today it is quite routine.
Because seafood is low in saturated fat and easy to digest, it has become a
staple on the dinner tables of the health-conscious. But as more and more
concerned diners are choosing seafood as a better source of animal protein,
our fisheries are stretched to the limit. Salmon, cod and other cold-water
species, rich in health- promoting Omega-3 fatty acids, are nearly gone from
the Atlantic.

Fisheries are Declining

Today, stringent regulations designating specific times and quotas for the
fishing industry in waters all around the United States are in place. Still,
the decline of fish populations in the world’s rivers and oceans continues
at an alarming rate due to overfishing, water pollution and shrinking
habitats for breeding grounds. The Grand Banks, one of the richest sources
of seafood for centuries, is nearly depleted and is closed to most fishing,
and sharks, swordfish, giant marlin and other great billfish are in serious
trouble—too often they wind up caught in the mammoth nets of seagoing
factory boats.

In 1996 Greenpeace released a report stating that roughly one percent of all
the world’s fishing vessels accounts for 50 to 60 percent of the global fish
catch. High-tech fishing methods allow huge catches, and factory trawlers
with the ability to haul in thousands of tons of fish and process them for
market right on the boat now challenge small, independent fishing economies
that support 20 million people worldwide.

Clearing miles of mangrove and coastal marshland for beachfront housing,
hotels and sea walls destroys natural nurseries for fish, shellfish and
birds. The resulting beaches may be further "improved" by dredging up new
sand to increase beach width, further stressing coastal life.

In addition, pollution from industry and urban sprawl deeply affects water
quality. Areas with high concentrations of urban runoff result in deformed
fish and habitats laced with toxic chemicals. Recent studies found some
Great Lakes fish contained high levels of PCBs—0.3 to 5 parts per million—as
did human breast milk from mothers in the area. It was enough to keep ranch
mink that ate Great Lakes fish from reproducing. Certain forms of pollution
also lead to explosive algae growth, depleting the supply of oxygen and
making the surrounding water uninhabitable.

All this makes farm-raised fish very appealing to consumers. Ideally, fish
raised in a controlled environment should be free of pollutants and ought
not to place stress on the native stock. Indeed, many fish and shellfish are
successfully farmed, providing a viable alternative to seafood caught in
rivers and oceans. But as aquaculture expands to fill the tremendous demand
for fish, it raises questions.

Enter Aquaculture

Aquaculture (literally "water culture") produces fish and shellfish for food
in a closely managed habitat. Polynesians used aquaculture in the Pacific
for hundreds of years by closing off entryways to lagoons. Once trapped, the
fish were raised for food. Northern Europeans, Asians, Native Americans and
most native peoples who lived near the ocean or along large rivers plentiful
with fish also practiced aquaculture. Seaweed, bait fish and tropical fish
for aquariums have been raised this way for years. It’s an old practice, but
one that gets both positive and negative attention from environmentalists
these days.

Today the aquaculture industry is experiencing explosive growth, and at this
point deserves a hard look to keep it on a positive track. Globally, China
and Japan lead the world in the aquaculture explosion because of their
centuries of experience. But recent statistics show the United States isn’t
lagging far behind. Production of farm-raised fish in the U.S. tops 400,000
metric tons and generates over $729 million in revenue, placing it fifth in
the world market. The government also promotes aquaculture, allotting more
than $60 million in financial aid for fish farms in 1994.

Consumers pay a high premium for farmed fish, and with the increased demand
for seafood, aquaculture is becoming an ideal get-rich-quick scheme.
Do-it-yourself magazines feature ads for fish farming in your own backyard
as a full time occupation, or just an extra money-maker. But the big bucks
come with the big farms, the ones operated by the shrimp barons who hope to
cash in on that shrimp cocktail or catfish dinner enjoyed by seafood lovers
everywhere. Unfortunately, too much of it smacks of a boom-town industry
controlled by entrepreneurs whose resource-depleting methods resemble the
slash-and-burn farming of tropical forests.

How Fish Are Farmed

On a fish farm, finfish and shellfish are raised in fresh or salt water
ponds, tanks or raceways, and netpens or cages. Raceways are a series of
tanks equipped with flowing water, while netpens and cages are usually
placed directly into a natural body of water.

Catfish farming makes up 50 percent of the U.S. aquaculture industry. The
life of a catfish is much like that of a cow on a Midwestern feed lot. Its
parents are breeder fish whose sole purpose in life is to produce delicious
little catfish. The fertilized eggs are placed in hatching tanks with
controlled heat and oxygen regulators, and about three weeks after hatching,
the young catfish "fry" move to outdoor ponds to grow.

One major advantage of fish farming is the farmer’s complete control of the
environment —from the quality of pond water to the specially formulated fish
diet. Control is the operative word here—fish farmers believe it is this
element that gives farm-raised fish a guaranteed wholesomeness. Part of this
control involves using products to prevent health problems in the fish.
Thus, farmers use disinfectants to kill bacteria, herbicides to kill excess
vegetation in ponds, vaccines to prevent infection, and drug-laced fish food
to control parasites and other diseases. As a result, farmed fish may have
the same chemical residues of hormones and drugs found in cattle. Effluent
from fish farms may also invade the surrounding environment, and that’s a
big concern.

Environmental Problems

On the surface aquaculture appears to be a pollution-free industry, but a
closer look reveals the densely stocked ponds and tanks generate large
quantities of polluting wastes, just like other forms of intensive animal
production. While livestock raised on land produce waste that enters nearby
lakes or rivers indirectly, fish farms often release effluent from ponds or
tanks directly into nearby bays or rivers. The waste is mostly uneaten fish
feed and excrement high in nitrogen and phosphorous. When this nutrient-rich
waste reaches the water, it may cause oxygen-depleting algae blooms,
resulting in a kill-off of wild fish and other water-dwellers.

Occasionally, farmed fish escape and mate with native fish in the nearby
region. This negatively affects the gene pool of wild fish, making progeny
more vulnerable because farm raised fish are not bred for survival. While
this may not seem like much of a problem, experts say this kind of
interbreeding can weaken an already threatened species. Sometimes exotic
species can also bring their own form of invisible baggage. For example,
Japanese oysters imported for oyster farms brought with them diseases and
non-native plants that threaten native oyster species.

The Salmon Controversy

Today, farming salmon is a flash point between environmentalists and fish
farmers, particularly in the Northwest. Once salmon were plentiful in the
Atlantic and the large rivers of the Pacific Northwest, but the Great
Depression changed all that. During the 1930s, when Atlantic salmon was
still so abundant, it was a cheap source of protein, a one-pound tin costing
about ten cents. Americans grew dependent on this nutritious and inexpensive
fare, and those lean years almost wiped out the entire North Atlantic salmon

In the Northwest, dam-building fever nearly ended the great Columbia River
runs, a run greater than that of all the rivers of Oregon and California
combined. In 40 years, 36 dams were built on the Columbia and its
tributaries, forcing salmon nowadays to navigate huge dams through the
famous fish ladders. Some Columbia River salmon spawned in the lower
tributaries, but most went far up the river, where the huge Grand Coulee Dam
now blocks many traditional spawning grounds.

Today, the salmon-farming industry is one of the largest fisheries in
aquaculture, but not without raising some concerns among environmentalists.
Between 1987 and 1995, salmon consumption in the United States increased 170
percent, many times greater than that of its two other popular rivals,
shrimp and catfish.

Salmon farming is also big business in Scotland and Norway, where the fjords
and bays of the rocky coastline provide excellent waters for netpens and
cages. When the weather is stormy in these rough waters, the penned salmon
escape, then breed with the native wild salmon. In some Norwegian rivers and
streams, farmed salmon nearly wiped out native salmon populations by
spreading a parasite unknown among wild fish. Sea lice, another problem
spread by farmed fish, may cause a high mortality rate among smolts, as baby
salmon are called.

As interbreeding creates mongrel salmon, many individual species
characteristics disappear, leaving salmon that are less robust and without
that special knowledge of when to spawn in a particular river. Much salmon
raised in the Northwest are of the Atlantic species, causing concern among
fish biologists over potential interbreeding of the two species.

Waste is another problem. Uneaten feed and salmon feces gather under cages,
affecting water quality beneath. Depending on the tides, as far as 500 feet
out to sea can be affected as oxygen- depleting gasses are released, killing
sealife and encouraging species that love pollution. This reduces diversity
near the salmon cages.

In a report for SeaWeb, an environmental organization devoted to preserving
resources in the world’s oceans, Michael Weber writes that most species of
farmed fish and shellfish eat plants occurring naturally in the ponds,
lakes, rivers and bays where they are raised. But salmon are carnivorous
fish, which means they eat high on the food chain. It takes about five
pounds of fish to produce one pound of fish meal, accounting for half the
salmon’s diet.

Nearly one-third of the world’s ocean catch is used for fish meal and fish
oil. The large mackerel, anchovy and sardine fisheries off the coast of
South America provide most of the fish for fish meal. These Pacific
fisheries are highly unstable, often experiencing drastic fluctuations.
During El Niño, for example, nutrient-rich water supplying food for
anchovies was suppressed, causing a collapse of the anchovy fishery.

Salmon raised in pens are often stalked by various seabirds and other marine
animals, such as sea lions and harbor seals. Farmers may use netting that
entangles birds or marine mammals, or high-pitched noise devices to deter
seals and sea lions. Unfortunately, these devices also keep away porpoise
and other marine life.

Aquaculture Can Be Sustainable

Because the demand for seafood is expected to continue to rise, the world
appears on the brink of a "blue revolution," much like the "green
revolution" of the 1960s. Despite all the negatives, there is a positive
side to fish farming. Due to the high costs of intensive aquaculture, most
farmers are looking for ways to improve methods and lessen the impact on the

In Idaho, fish farms along the Snake River were flushing effluent from fish
ponds directly into the river until some concerned farmers built settling
ponds, allowing the waste water to trap much sediment in the ground. They
discovered an added benefit: The ponds also provide wetlands for songbirds,
waterfowl and other fish. It’s a positive move that’s spreading as more
areas comply with the Clean Water Act.

New methods include integrating plants into the ponds, as well as other
species such as mussels, which can be grown under salmon cages and feed on
the droppings from above. Using large bags to enclose sea-raised salmon is
another answer. This system not only prevents escape, but also helps capture
waste for collection, rather than dispersing it into the surrounding water.

In her Worldwatch report "The Blue Revolution" (April 22, 1998), Ann Plant
McGinn discusses ways to make aquaculture more environmentally sound. New
breeding techniques are designed to maximize growth and food conversion.
Unfortunately, this does little to help the hungry of the world.
Alternatives to feeding carnivorous fish must be found if we are to enlarge
the world’s food supply. Just as growing numbers of people are turning to
vegetarianism to help prevent food depletion, in the future others might
follow the same path, opting for plant-eating varieties of seafood such as
tilapia, catfish and carp over carnivorous species such as shrimp, salmon or

Today many restaurant menus display messages informing patrons that fish
served are from a sustainable source. Some committed organizers are pushing
for certification for ocean fish, and perhaps this will eventually extend to
aquaculture. The World Wildlife Fund is overseeing a Marine Stewardship
Council to screen marine catch and certify it was caught in a manner
non-injurious to seabirds and marine mammals. The United Nation’s Food and
Agriculture Agency has issued guidelines for sustainable aquaculture, but so
far there’s no enforcement.

Many developing nations have felt the brunt of get-rich-quick aquaculture
schemes that have flourished along their coastlines, causing damage to the
environment and economy. Governments are clamping down on these fly-by-night
operations. Honduras now has a moratorium on shrimp farms, while India has
banned shrimp farming in high-tide zones. Norway and Scotland have stopped
building netpens for salmon in coastal waters, and Egypt now forbids
diverting water for fish farms. Little by little, as people become more
aware, aquaculture is becoming more environmentally friendly and less

As the world’s population expands, aquaculture is truly a viable resource
for food, but it must be seriously examined. Estimates are that, as land
becomes more stressed and more people look for alternatives to a red
meat-based diet, seafood demand will escalate sharply in the next century.
If we can rein in devious practices some aquaculture industries engage in
just to turn a quick buck, we’ll be way ahead of the game.

Nano Riley is a Florida-based writer and frequent Organica contributor.

"Bill Cole" wrote in message

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Don White
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In this area there is an on going battle between a fish farm and the local
inhabitants of the small cove where it is located.
(St. Margaret's Bay)
All the same concerns experienced on the West coast are felt here.
On the day before we brought the Mirage33 back from Mahone Bay and passed
through the area, a diver was killed at the site.

Gould 0738 wrote in message
Environmentalists and the industry agree that the use of animal

and dioxins in farmed fish pose health concerns, seabeds are damaged by

cages and farmed fish that escape can harm wild stocks.

Glad to see the article at least acknowledge those very real issues.

As it is presently carried out, fish farming is an enrivornmental

disaster. The
fish produced are so full of chemicals, it's a wonder they don't glow in

dark. The poop from 200,000 or more fish caged in a small net pen piles up

the seafloor and kills off all the organisms immediately below and for a

around the operation.

Fish farmers up here often use Atlantic Salmon, not native to the NW.
Inevitably, some fish escape. These Atlantic salmon
compete with the remaining wild fish for food. Atlantic salmon escaped

pens do not reproduce, so they reduce the number and health of wild fish

competing for food and contribute nothing to replenishing stocks through
eventual reproduction.

Fish farming is common around here. Most of the major food stores now make

that salmon offered for sale is prominently labeled "wild" salmon if it

farmed. I try to avoid buying aquacultured fish.
The majority of our restaurants serve faux fish from farms.

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