Due to the growth in demand for seafood, the increasing world population, and the decline of marine fish, fish farming (also known as aquaculture)has grown into a major industry supplying over 50% of the fish consumed worldwide. However, fish farming has a lot of problems.
Conversion Efficiency – Most aquaculture operations produce carnivorous fish such as shrimp, salmon, or tuna. In order to support 1 lb of growth of these fish, they must be fed between 10-20 lbs of lower-grade feed fish such as anchovies or sardines. Obviously with the decline in marine resources, it would be more efficient just to eat the sardines ourselves. Sometimes, the aquaculture farms do not use whole feeder fish. Instead they use pelletized food, made in part from fishmeal. It requires 5 lbs of raw fish to produce 1 lb of fish meal; then the fishmeal will have its own conversion ratio of lbs required to produce one pound of growth of the aquaculture fish.
Coastal Contamination – Time Magazine reported other collateral problems created by industrial scale aquaculture: the destruction of coastal habitats through waste disposal, the introduction of diseases and the possible escape of exotic species that can threaten indigenous breeds.
Contaminated Aquaculture fish – Factory fish-farming is a fairly dirty operation. Massive amounts of antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides are required to keep disease at bay just to keep fish and shrimp alive in overcrowded conditions (typically in nets, cages, or ponds). The risk of contamination is high, both to the surrounding water and within the enclosures themselves. 70% of the world’s fish farming takes place in China, occupying over 4,000 sq. miles of land. In that part of the world, chemicals, hormones, and cleanliness control is not a major concern.
Farm-raised fish are given antibiotics to stave off disease that results from crowded conditions and are also treated with pesticides to combat sea lice. Sea lice from fish farms kill up to 95% of migrating juvenile wild salmon.
GMO Fish – If this were not bad enough, last November (2015) the FDA approved a genetically modified fish for human consumption. It is produced by an aquaculture company in Massachusetts farming salmon using DNA that’s formed by merging the genetic material of different organisms into the salmon that makes it grow to market size much more quickly than non-genetically modified salmon will. The FDA is not requiring the company who makes it to label the fish as genetically engineered. So you won’t even know that you are eating GMO fish. (By the way, this is the first GMO animal that has been approved for human consumption.)
So when you are about to take your first bite of that attractive fillet of fish at your favorite restaurant, thinking that you are eating very healthy by getting away from the chemicals and hormones associated with the beef industry. and the GMO wheat and corn that fed that steak . . . sorry for wrecking your meal.
The alternative is to take a look at what a real fish -not a GMO, not fed with hormones or antibiotics- that is living freely in the ocean, actually looks like. This picture was taken by my dive buddy Michelle. You can notice that this is in shallow water because you can see the underside of the surface waves and part of a boat’s hull floating in the top left corner.