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People and Pollution Issues Mean Aquaculture Must Change

WORLDWIDE - Achiving sustainablity will mean dramatic change for the global aquaculture industry, says Greenpeace. Protecting the environment and the people involved in seafood farming are vital issues and need to be addressed.

In an international report published this week, the environmental pressure group says aquaculture is not a solution to over fishing. The industry has a significant impact on bio-diversity and a poor human rights record.

'Challenging the Aquaculture Industry on Sustainability', 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. The report which was prepared by the Greenpeace research lab at the University of Exeter, 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. It was presented during the 2008 Seafood Summit in Barcelona by Sarah King, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace Canada.

"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," she said.

"With continued reports of lice from farmed fish infecting wild BC salmon, and pollution plaguing bays and inlets on our East Coast, it's clear we're nowhere near farming fish in a sustainable way," she added


The report highlights the devastating impacts nutrient pollution from faecal 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. Research near finfish farms in the Bay of Fundy, Canada found that diversity decreased significantly up to 200 meters away from the cages after five years of operation.

The report also flags up the human rights issues associated with aquaculture - an element of the business that is often disregarded, says Greenpeace. In Bangladesh alone about 150 murders are linked to aquaculture have been reported. And abuses associated with the shrimp farming sector are reported in 11 countries worldwide. To address these problems, the Greenpeace 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 Ms King.

Greenpeace 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.

Further Reading

- To view the full report click here.
- To read our article on the impact of fish waste on the seabed
click here.