Deep Ocean Fish Farms Prevent Disease, But What About Pollution?

Published on January 13th, 2010 | by

Just like North America, Chile’s salmon fishing industry has suffered in recent years. Fish farms try to meet global demand; however, they are often prone to bacterial and viral disease.  Backed by Norwegian financing, Chile plans to build its first deep water salmon fish farm in an effort to protect stock. 

Photo by kent wangDeep ocean fish farms prevent disease, but what about pollution?
Deep ocean fish farms prevent disease, but what about pollution?

Traditional, conventional fish farms are located near coasts where disease can run rampant in warmer waters and close quarters.  Furthermore, farm raised fish often escape effecting native populations.  Many countries have turned to deep sea fish farms, which are located from three to 200 miles from shore, as a solution. Also known as open ocean aquaculture (OOA), deep ocean fish farms exist in countries such as China, South Korea, and Mexico.  Aquacopia explains the benefits of OOA:

Relocating fish farms away from protected near shore sites to deep water locations with strong and consistent currents can significantly reduce environmental impacts while simultaneously optimizing growing conditions. Unlike traditional marine aquaculture operations, these new open ocean fish farms avoid near-shore common use conflicts, but being exposed to harsh open ocean conditions creates new challenges.

Deep water fish farms are not without controversy.  Environmentalists are concerned about pollution and the effects on native species, but “proponents say that massive ocean currents will sweep away any pollution problems.”  Food & Water Watch reports on a recent bill that would would attempt to regulate the practice in the US:

While Representative Capps may intend legislation as a safeguard against a piecemeal approach to developing and regulating ocean aquaculture, the ultimate effect is of streamlining the process for the industry to better establish itself in the U.S.

Ocean fish farming can have devastating effects on the environment and fishing jobs and produce lower-quality fish for consumers. Environmental problems can include escapement of fish, pollution of surrounding waters with excess feed and fish waste, and transmission of parasites and diseases to wild populations. These problems will not be fully mitigated by the bill, which enforces very limited liability for damages to natural resources.

Chile’s new deep water salmon fish farm will use copper mesh cages that fight bacteria, and it will cover 1,300 hectares.  According to UPI, farm raised fish accounts for 45% of world consumption.  Chile plans to cash in on this global demand if its new deep ocean farm passes environmental impact assessments.


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