Hazards of fish factories


Maneka Gandhi


(Bihar Times) Now that commercial fishing has emptied our oceans, the seafood industry has turned to raising fish in fish farms. The chances of eating a wild fish is now remote – just as , in the last hundred years , the chances of eating a cow, pig or hen that has grown up free and healthy have been nonexistent.
Fishfarming, started in the 60s, is a billion dollar industry and almost half of all the sea animals eaten(80-90% of all salmon) are now raised in fish factories. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization reports that the aquaculture industry is growing three times faster than land-based animal agriculture. This is what one company proudly says “We don't take what Mother Nature throws at us. We have factories for fish."—  Mariculture Systems, salmon production company

Aquafarms are based on land or at the edge of the ocean. Land-based farms raise fish in ponds or indoor concrete tanks indoors .Ocean-based aquafarms are situated close to shorelines, and fish spend their entire lives in cramped, filthy mesh enclosures bumping against each other and the sides of their overcrowded cages.
 Conditions are so vicious that 40 % of the fish, Salmon, trout ,cod, halibut , turbot, tilapia die much before they are ready to be killed.
Farm fish are born from the eggs and sperm from broodstock fish; the mothers are kept in cages, constantly taken out of the water and their abdomens palpated till the eggs are sucked out by tube.  The eggs are reared in a hatchery. When the young fish emerge, they are chemically treated to prevent disease, and then transferred to freshwater rearing cages to be fattened up.
When they are 4 to 7 inches long, young fish are transported from the hatchery to the fish farm. They are deprived of feed for 1-2 days before being transported to sea cages. The pumping out of the transport tank into the sea cage is stressful and causes many deaths.
On one site, there is generally up to 20 cages. More than 1 million fish are crowded into a small area of coastal water in unnaturally high densities. Each cage of 120 meters diameter has as many as 50,000 individuals.
In the crowding, small fish are bullied by larger fish, so fish are continually sorted to make sure that faster-growing individuals are moved to the appropriate size group. At each sorting, they are netted or pumped out of their tanks and dumped onto a series of bars and grates with varying space gaps to divide them by size and redistribute them into different netted cages or tanks; small fish slip through the small grates, while larger fish fall through the larger gaps. This grading is very stressful and results in painful scrapes. Each fish is graded as many as five times, sucked up or netted and then spat back into a different cage.
As many as 40% of fish are blind. All have fin and tail injuries, body deformities.
Parasite infestations are common. Sea lice eat at the fish creating large sores and often eating down to the bone. Damage can be so severe around the head that the living fish's skull is exposed - a condition that the fish farms call the "death crown".
In an attempt to combat amoebic gill disease, the fish are periodically bathed in fresh water. They are moved out into cages of fresh water for about four hours before being put back into sea water. This can occur once a month and imposes serious stress in the process of being mechanically moved from saltwater to freshwater and back. Other treatments involve bathing the fish in organophosphates, synthetic pyrethroids or hydrogen peroxide.
In 2 years the fish  grown on a diet high in fat, oil, drugs and hormones to make them grow as quickly as possible to slaughter weight (5lb/6lb) are killed.
 How are they killed ? No country has regulations for humane treatment of fish who are killed  in ways which cause such intolerable suffering that the perpetrators would be prosecuted if they slaughtered other farm animals  similarly.
Fish are starved upto 10 days before they are sent to slaughter in order to reduce feces contamination of the water during transport. They are conscious when they start down the line at fish slaughter plants. Their gills are cut and they convulse and bleed to death. Salmon, are bashed on the head with a wooden bat called a “priest,”  Many are seriously injured but still alive when cut open. Smaller fish, like trout, are killed by draining water away and leaving them to slowly suffocate or by packing them in ice while they are still fully conscious,  experiencing excruciating pain for as long as 15 minutes before they die. In some countries fish are sent by pipeline from cages to harvest bins and stunned electrically. 
Farmed fishing is being touted as a way to save the fish in the ocean. This is what one Net site called Green Careers Guide had to say about teaching people to farm fish : Humans eat so much fish that many of the fish varieties are endangered. A fish farm is simply another way to raise these fish so that humans can continue to eat them, without worry that they will all be gone. The site proclaims “ New Fish Farming Method Provides Virtually Guilt-free Seafood.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. These fish factories are destroying the natural fish on our planet . Farm fish are fed wild fish and it takes 5 pounds of wild-caught fish to produce 1 pound of farmed fish. Aqua farmers also feed fish oil to fish. It takes 3 tonnes of sand eels or 9 tonnes of Pacific anchovies to produce one tonne of farmed salmon. Consequently other species of fish that rely upon these small fish for their survival are endangered. Alaska's fisheries annually produce 1.25 million metric tons of " wastes" from fish processing which are turned into meal and oil and sold to aquaculture operations in Asia.
Not only are the fish in farms sick, they’re also making wild fish populations sick. Their feces, antibiotic filled fish feed , pesticides,  parasites like sea lice and diseased fish carcasses are thrown into the water killing wild fish
The massive amount of fish excrement settling below fish cages actually causes the ocean floor to rot. The salmon and trout farms in Norway alone produce roughly the same amount of sewage as New York City. Before the expansion of fishing farming in the late 1980’s there was not a single recorded instance of toxic algae in Scotland. They are now a year-round occurrence because of the untreated ammonia dumped into coastal waters. For every tonne of salmon produced, an estimated 100 kg of ammonia are released. Scotland's fish farm industry produced 7,500 tonnes of nitrogen in the year 2000, the annual sewage output of 3.2 million people.
Fish farms are responsible for introducing non-native fish into areas where they take over indigenous species’ habitats. More than a million Atlantic salmon have escaped from coastal farms and now dominate the habitats of wild salmon—a conflict that has caused the rivers  in Scotland that once teamed with wild salmon to be now virtually devoid of these fish.
Apart from fish, fish feed is allowed to contain beef , cereals and chicken feathers. Neurologists ,in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, say farmed fish could transmit the fatal Creutzfeldt Jakob disease-- known as mad cow disease--if they are fed cow intestines, blood and bonemeal. The scientists urge government regulators to ban this common practice . " We believe that out of caution for public health, the practice of feeding cows to fish should be prohibited as infected beef has caused hundreds of deaths from mad cow disease," say the authors.  
Farmed fish also cause the deaths of other animals. Thousands of baby seals are killed in a bid to 'control' predators. So are fish-eating birds and otters. Recently the Kerala government wanted the killing of cormorants to protect their fish farms.
A farmed fish: 16 times more carcinogenic PCBs, fire retardants , pesticides , sea lice, antibiotics, copper sulfate, astaxanthin /canthaxanthin ( dyes associated with retinal damage which are added to make the fish look a “healthy pink”) green malachite, a carcinogen that was prohibited in 2002 . 

In 2008 Chile’s salmon fish farms along the shore have been afflicted by infectious salmon anemia killing millions of salmon. Most of these are owned by Norwegian companies who pull out as soon as the waters become too polluted, leaving local fishermen with no fish in the coastal waters and move to another part of the coast –  what miners do when their mines pan out.
How quickly do you want the earth destroyed ?

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in


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