We all do it. We buy a package of salmon, never thinking about how the fish was raised. The sad truth is that the salmon was raised inside a mesh cage sized like a city block instead of swimming free in the ocean. It’s called net-pen farming, and Washington is joining California, Oregon, and Alaska in putting an end to it.
What’s Wrong With Commercial Fish Farming?
Let’s begin with caging something: you’ll have a waste problem, disease will spread from penned salmon to wild fish, there are lethal sea lice infestations, as well as products to kill parasites and other pests getting into the water. The price of salmon worldwide has risen as the result of such environmental issues.
Add to this the fact that the water in which the salmon are raised is used by the public. The net pen farming companies such as Cooke Aquaculture, who harvest salmon in Puget Sound pen farms, do nothing to filter or treat the water for impurities before its use by humans.
Since the net pen farm spill upheaval in 2017, the Cooke company’s pen leases have been canceled. The company’s operations in other countries were also closely inspected. All were found to be not compliant with state and industry safety guidelines and shut down.
As Cooke switches from salmon to steelhead, the tribes along with the population of Washington state are worried. They wonder about the farming of fish and its consequences for the wild fish in the area. Their own health and wellness are naturally matters of concern as well.
What’s The Answer?
Advocates of building a better mousetrap suggest containment facilities on land. Wild fish won’t swim by and become tainted with sea lice. The snag to that idea is not enough fish could be raised to answer the needs of ten billion people worldwide.
Better pens in the oceans, complete with filtering systems, easier methods of protecting the salmon from pests and parasites, in addition to better methods of cleaning up the waste, have been suggested, too. Both scenarios are being considered as the deadline for establishment of better methods draws nearer.
As the world population grows, food production becomes the question: can we double or triple food production? Can we do it without harming the Earth or the people needing that food? Banning net pen farms was a good start.