As a relatively new and growing sustainable solution to food production, salmon ocean farming has been the subject of intensive environmental assessments.
The salmon ocean farming industry goes to great lengths to protect the environment and natural sea life from poor water quality.
While all types of agriculture have an effect on their surrounding environment, the effects of aquaculture are the lowest of any large-scale food production process. Any impact salmon ocean farms have on their habitat are minimal, temporary and fully reversible.
Minimizing Salmon Ocean Farming Impacts: Farm Locations
Salmon ocean farms are intentionally located in areas to minimize environmental impacts. Ocean farms are generally in deep water over sand and silt bottoms, areas that naturally support limited faunal diversity and productivity. Strategic placement of salmon ocean farms and monitoring of feeding combined with periods of inactivity help to reverse short-term effects. Any effects diminish rapidly with distance from the pens and disappear at 500 feet. As soon as fish are fully harvested from a site, the effects naturally begin to reverse, with sediments returning to normal within several months.
New Technologies and Techniques
When salmon waste and feed falls to the seabed beneath a farm faster than marine life can consume it, its decomposition process temporarily affects the oxygen and chemical makeup in ocean-floor sediments. These changes, however, are mitigated in a number of ways.
Devices such as underwater cameras help ensure fish are not overfed, reducing the amount of uneaten feed falling to the bottom. Newer feeds are also more efficiently digestible, resulting in less generation of waste. Fish waste cannot be compared to human waste in that it cannot spread disease—fish waste produces nutrients and even serves as food and fertilizer to other, lower species.
Research has indicated that even though salmon production levels have tripled since the 1980s, the environmental impact of waste has decreased by two-thirds in that time.
Scientists have performed several studies on the topic of whether or not salmon ocean farming increases the number of sea lice in certain marine areas. There are several recent studies that have refuted the claim that salmon ocean farming raises sea lice levels. To read more about these studies, visit www.salmonfarmers.org.
Scientific content supplied by the British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association.
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