September 12, 2001
As populations of wild salmon decline and cans and slabs of farmed salmon proliferate on supermarket shelves, aquaculture practices that help feed the demand for the fish are gaining attention. US consumers get much of their farmed salmon from Norway and Chile, the world's top producers.
A July 30, 2001 report by the Pew Oceans Commission concluded that aquaculture is less threatening to the marine environment than overfishing, coastal development, and climate change. However, the report did recommend several immediate actions, including eliminating releases of farmed fish into the wild. Pew Oceans Commission: Justin Kenney, 703-516-0605.
Canadian officials and US environmentalists are growing ever more leery of fish farming operations. The top problem, they say, is that salmon can escape their bay pens and enter streams, thus endangering native populations. An April 2001 report to the Canadian Parliament concluded that farmed Atlantic salmon (which grow faster than Pacific salmon and are reared in the waters off BC) were escaping by the tens of thousands and had been found spawning in the wild.
This year, Maine fish farms have been hit hard by infectious salmon anemia -- forcing the destruction of nearly 700,000 farm-raised salmon so far. Although harmless to humans, this virus can be fatal to fish, and there are concerns that it may spread to endangered wild Atlantic salmon. Maine Aquaculture Assoc.: 207-989-5310. AP story, Sept. 7, 2001.
Also, AQUA Bounty Farms has petitioned the FDA to approve the use of genetically modified salmon in the company's aquaculture business. Environmentalists have petitioned the FDA for a moratorium on marketing and importing the transgenic fish until the departments of Interior, Commerce, Defense, and Agriculture address the environmental impacts of such a move. FDA must respond by early November 2001. AQUA Bounty Farms: 781-899-7755. Related Mother Jones article, March/April 2001.