Environmental consequences of booming fish farming industry unacceptable, says WWF
Escape of farmed fish from pens is threatening already endangered wild salmon stocks.
Gland, Switzerland - As more than 20,000 aquaculture industry representatives gather in Trondheim, Norway for the biannual AquaNor exhibition, WWF is calling on both industry and governments to take immediate actions to address the growing coastal environmental threats by fish farming, the world's fastest growing food sector, worth more than US$56 billion annually.
Aquaculture, or farming at sea of both fish and shellfish, is set to overtake cattle ranching by the end of this decade. The industry, which provides one-third of the fish people consume globally, has been allowed to grow unchecked, resulting in an increasing number of environmental problems that threaten wild species and coastal habitats.
The escape of farmed fish from pens is further threatening already endangered wild salmon stocks. In 2002, more than 630,000 farmed salmon escaped in Norway — more than the total number of spawning wild Atlantic salmon in Norwegian rivers. The interbreeding of wild salmon with escaped farmed salmon is expected to alter the unique genetic makeup of salmon, which allows them to migrate from freshwater to the ocean and back to freshwater to spawn.
"The spread of the aquaculture industry must be controlled to avoid physical damage to coastal ecosystems and wild species and to mitigate negative environmental impacts on coastal communities," said Dr Simon Cripps, Director of WWF's Endangered Seas Programme. "Aquaculture can play an important role in providing an adequate supply of fish to consumers, but it must happen in tandem with sustainable practices that mitigate the industry's impacts on the environment."
WWF believes the intrusion of fish farms into vulnerable marine and coastal areas is another major problem. Fish farms can have detrimental effects through the release of waste nutrients, pathogens and chemicals into the environment, which has already led to habitat damage in parts of Scotland and Norway.
WWF is calling for an international Code of Conduct for responsible aquaculture, as well as the establishment of farm-free zones and marine protected areas to protect vulnerable species and habitats from fish farming. WWF also believes there is an immediate need for strict technical requirements to be enforced to prevent the large numbers of escapes of farmed species into the wild. These include better farm security, catch netting, net monitoring and suitable farm location away from important salmon migration routes.
"Fish farmers need to be more vigilant in preventing escapes of farmed salmon or else we risk the global loss of our wild salmon species,” added Dr Simon Cripps.
For further information:
WWF Endangered Seas Programme
Tel: +41 22 364 9028
Tel: +41 22 364 9562
NOTE TO EDITORS:
• AquaNor is a bi-annual international aquaculture exhibition held in Trondheim, Norway.