In theory, open net-cage fish farming seems like the perfect way to meet high fish consumption demands; very little work and manpower is needed to raise and harvest the fish. Unfortunately, open-net fish farming works ONLY in theory. Its negative impacts extend well beyond the life of the fish within the farm.
For the fish contained within the nets, life can be miserable and short-lived. Because parasites like sea lice depend on fish for their survival, the high concentration of fish within the open-net farms provide the perfect conditions for infestation. What’s more, the high stress levels of the fish within these nets can make them more susceptible to naturally occurring diseases like infectious hematopoietic necrosis (IHN) and bacterial kidney disease (BKD). All of these diseases and parasites can have lethal adverse effects for the fish within the farm.
But it’s not just the fish in the farms. Because the cages are open-net, wild fish swimming near the farm also become susceptible to these diseases and parasites. What’s more, waste from the farm is unfiltered and allowed to wash away into the ocean. Ocean bottom-dwellers are especially damaged by the effects of fish farm waste since much of the waste settles to the ocean floor. Even after a fish farm moves, the area where the fish farm once existed may be inhabitable for marine life up to five years.
Mammals are also harmed by the effects of net-cage fish farming. More than 6,200 seals and sea lions have been shot on sight by net-cage farmers between 1989 and 2000. Regulations require that these shootings be reported, but local residents found 14 dead sea lions in a pit; they had been killed by a fish farm in Clayoquot Sound. But the shootings aren’t the only threat to marine mammals; at just two fish farms, 52 sea lions, a harbor porpoise and a Pacific white-sided dolphin died of entrapment in April of 2007 alone.
And if the damage to the world’s already fragile ecosystems wasn’t bad enough, open-net fish farming also damages the local economy. In contrast to commercial and recreational fishing, which has provided an estimated 14,300 jobs in BC, only 2,945 direct, indirect and induced jobs were provided by salmon farming within the same area. This is because much of the work in open-net farming is mechanized.
Open-net fish farming can be stopped. Even though the petition to stop a new fish farm from opening in BC (in an area that is designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, no less) is closed, interested parties can still contact government officials by mail or by email. Your action can help stop unnatural fish farming and help protect nature’s already fragile ecosystem.