Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Salmon farms pose significant threat to salmon fisheries in the Pacific Northwest, researchers find

23.09.2003


The growing popularity of farm-raised salmon has plunged the commercial fishing industry in the Pacific Northwest into a state of crisis, according to a new report by Stanford University researchers.



Writing in the October issue of ENVIRONMENT magazine, the research team found that, since the late 1980s, worldwide production of farm salmon has increased fivefold, while the market share of wild-caught salmon from Alaska, British Columbia and Washington state has steadily declined.

"Farm salmon represents one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative segments of the global aquaculture industry," said Josh Eagle, director of the Stanford Fisheries Policy Project and co-author of the ENVIRONMENT report. "In 1980, commercial fisheries produced more than 99 percent of salmon consumed worldwide. Today, they catch less than 40 percent."


The impact has been particularly devastating in Alaska, where 10 percent of the workforce is employed in some aspect of the salmon fishing industry, noted Rosamond L. Naylor, the Julie Wrigley Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Environmental Science and Policy (CESP) and lead author of the report.

"Wild salmon capture historically has played an important economic role by providing employment and incomes to a vast number of Native American and non-native communities along the coast," Naylor said. However, Alaska’s share of the global salmon market declined from 40 to 50 percent in the early 1980s to less than 20 percent in 2000 - mainly because of competition from salmon farms in Chile, Norway, the United Kingdom and other countries, she said.

In response, the Alaska state government recently declared a state of emergency and offered commercial salmon fishers a series of financial relief programs. In British Columbia and Washington, low fish stocks and low prices have induced some boat owners to participate in vessel buy-back programs.

Commercial fishers from Juneau to Seattle are losing market share not only to overseas competitors but also to local farming operations. Salmon aquaculture was virtually nonexistent in the Pacific Northwest prior to 1985. But today, 70 percent of the salmon produced in British Columbia and Washington comes from salmon farms - 121 in British Columbia and nine in Washington.

Ecological threats

Salmon aquaculture is currently prohibited in Alaska, for economic and environmental reasons. Raised in pens built along the shore, farm salmon are particularly susceptible to diseases and parasites, such as sea lice, that can be lethal to fish. The report cited instances where lice, viruses and other pathogens have contaminated wild salmon stocks swimming nearby.

"A more insidious ecological risk to wild salmon comes from the escape of farm fish from netpen facilities," the authors wrote, noting that well over a million salmon have escaped from farms in Washington and British Columbia during the past decade. Most of the escapees were Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), which, although not indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, are the main species raised in West Coast fish farms.

"Escapees are capable of establishing and reproducing in the wild and competing with wild salmon populations for food and habitat," according to the authors, who noted that Atlantic salmon have been found in dozens of rivers and lakes throughout British Columbia and Alaska. The report also found that open netpen aquaculture can threaten other organisms by releasing untreated nutrients, chemicals and pharmaceuticals into the marine ecosystem. Such concerns led the government of British Columbia to establish a six-year moratorium on salmon farming in 1996. Strict regulations for waste disposal were finally introduced last year when the moratorium was lifted. Whether the regulations are successful in curbing pollution will depend on how rigorously they are enforced, the authors wrote.

Year-round demand

The authors pointed to several reasons why aquaculture producers have been able to outcompete commercial fishers - including technological advancements, a highly capitalized and consolidated corporate sector, cost-cutting measures and the ability to provide consumers with a consistently fresh product year-round. Commercial fisheries, on the other hand, tend to be relatively small operations that depend on seasonal harvests, which vary in size and quality from year to year.

According to the report, salmon farmers also have benefited from several globalization trends: rapid expansion of the seafood trade; overnight transport of fresh products around the world; and a strong market demand for homogenous, made-to-order products.

"Unfortunately, the globalized market structure and increasing international competition for salmon products often undermine local efforts to protect environmental quality and marine resources," Naylor explained. "Washington and British Columbia’s governing agencies - the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Canada and NOAA Fisheries - face the challenge that increased environmental regulation in one country may drive production to another country, and with free trade enforced by the World Trade Organization, the ’lowest common denominator’ often rules. NOAA and DFO both have joint mandates to promote aquaculture development and to protect ocean resources."

Industry overhaul

According to the report, the fishing sector is now on the verge of major restructuring - similar to the transformation that occurred in agriculture and rural communities in the lower 48 states. In Alaska, plans are currently on the table for new cooperative fishing programs and a restructuring of producer-processor relationships.

"The good news is that the aquaculture revolution is forcing more efficiency on a sector sorely in need of such change. The bad news is that such change involves considerable human suffering and community disruption," Naylor explained. "The social impacts of salmon aquaculture in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska have been equally, if not more, acute than the environmental impacts."

Despite the obvious environmental and social impacts of salmon aquaculture, the United States, Canada and other salmon fishing countries have yet to implement and enforce effective measures to protect coastal ecosystems and communities, Eagle said: "There are inherent difficulties in imposing environmental quality measures on a politically powerful industry that faces fierce international competition. Scientific uncertainty and intra-agency conflicts have also played a role in delaying regulation."

Given these obstacles, the authors suggest the following strategies to minimize the potential harm caused by aquaculture operations:
  • Enforcing an international moratorium on salmon farming - as was done in British Columbia - to allow environmental policy to catch up with the rapid growth of the industry;

  • Creating a single agency to regulate commercial fishing and aquaculture in each country;

  • Increasing demand for environmentally friendly fish by marketing them with eco-labels such as "Wild Pacific Salmon" or "Sustainably Produced Farm Salmon";

  • Creating an international treaty with specific environmental and product-quality mandates.

"Unless some actions are taken on a national and international level, local communities and ecosystems will remain at high risk from the expansion of the global aquaculture industry," Naylor said.
The ENVIRONMENT report also was co-authored by Whitney L. Smith, a CESP research fellow. Research for the report was funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

CESP is a specialized research center within the Stanford Institute for International Studies that mobilizes a multidisciplinary network of scholars, students, policymakers and leaders to understand and help solve international environmental problems through science and policy research. The Stanford Fisheries Policy Project, a joint venture between the Stanford Law School and the university’s Hopkins Marine Station, works to improve the condition of the oceans through applied interdisciplinary research.

Ashley Dean is the assistant director for public affairs in the Stanford Center for Environmental Science and Policy.

Mark Shwartz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.pewoceans.org/oceanfacts/2002/01/11/fact_22988.asp
http://fisheries.stanford.edu/home.html
http://www.stanford.edu/dept/news/html/releases.html

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>