All at Sea

J

John Bailey

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Interesting to see the Sunday Times magazine (January 9th 2022) covering the plight of the salmon netsmen of yore. The piece was relatively well informed, to my eyes, lamenting the death of an ages-old way of life more than anything else. I think we would all like there to be enough wild salmon for their craft to recommence, but there are not.

Which I find a shame for gastronomic reasons. I suspect there are not many of us under the age of fifty who actually remember what WILD salmon taste like. My parents were quite well off in the Fifties, but even so, for us the first wild salmon of the year was a massive treat, occurring towards Easter time generally. We all preferred the fish cold, with new potatoes, salad, and my mother’s home-made mayonnaise. I can just about recall the smell and the texture of that wonderful salmon now. I caught a fair few salmon in the Eighties, and I think the last one that I killed for the table would have been around 1988. My wife is an excellent cook. She buys farmed salmon regularly. I always have mine cold, with a dollop of Hellmann’s. It tastes not a jot like my mother’s wild fish of my infancy, and I am sure that is fact not fantasy.

The ST article was quite fair, but certain issues were airbrushed. The grey seal has been protected for over a century and now numbers in excess of 120k animals around our shores. That amounts to 95% of the European population. The article says that seals do not eat salmon, which I find hard to believe. On Blakeney Point in Norfolk I have seen them hunting sea trout and bass with dedication, skill and success, and I cannot believe they make some exception for salmon. A seal who swam the river Wensum and made home in Norwich ate all the pike there so they are hardly afraid of taking big fish, are they? The article also says, rightly, few smolts make it back to the sea… but there is not a single mention of the cormorant word.

The incontestable damage fish farms do to the environment was reasonably fairly covered, though the horrors of the past at least were, once again, treated lightly. For example, the decline in sea trout numbers was passed over. From what I have heard in recent trips to Scotland, fish farms are better regulated than they were in the Nineties, but that much work remains to be done to make them ecologically acceptable.

I have kept this short as I’d like to think others will have read the piece and will have their own observations to make.



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Hoddom

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Interesting to see the Sunday Times magazine (January 9th 2022) covering the plight of the salmon netsmen of yore. The piece was relatively well informed, to my eyes, lamenting the death of an ages-old way of life more than anything else. I think we would all like there to be enough wild salmon for their craft to recommence, but there are not.

Which I find a shame for gastronomic reasons. I suspect there are not many of us under the age of fifty who actually remember what WILD salmon taste like. My parents were quite well off in the Fifties, but even so, for us the first wild salmon of the year was a massive treat, occurring towards Easter time generally. We all preferred the fish cold, with new potatoes, salad, and my mother’s home-made mayonnaise. I can just about recall the smell and the texture of that wonderful salmon now. I caught a fair few salmon in the Eighties, and I think the last one that I killed for the table would have been around 1988. My wife is an excellent cook. She buys farmed salmon regularly. I always have mine cold, with a dollop of Hellmann’s. It tastes not a jot like my mother’s wild fish of my infancy, and I am sure that is fact not fantasy.

The ST article was quite fair, but certain issues were airbrushed. The grey seal has been protected for over a century and now numbers in excess of 120k animals around our shores. That amounts to 95% of the European population. The article says that seals do not eat salmon, which I find hard to believe. On Blakeney Point in Norfolk I have seen them hunting sea trout and bass with dedication, skill and success, and I cannot believe they make some exception for salmon. A seal who swam the river Wensum and made home in Norwich ate all the pike there so they are hardly afraid of taking big fish, are they? The article also says, rightly, few smolts make it back to the sea… but there is not a single mention of the cormorant word.

The incontestable damage fish farms do to the environment was reasonably fairly covered, though the horrors of the past at least were, once again, treated lightly. For example, the decline in sea trout numbers was passed over. From what I have heard in recent trips to Scotland, fish farms are better regulated than they were in the Nineties, but that much work remains to be done to make them ecologically acceptable.

I have kept this short as I’d like to think others will have read the piece and will have their own observations to make.



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I’m interested that you continue to buy/eat farmed salmon.

Perhaps something to change given the evidence available about the effects of open cage/net salmon farming and the quality of the food itself?
 

meyre

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John, Thank you for the precis of Adam Weymouth's piece. As it is not a scientific paper so the tricky subject of predation by doe-eyed phocines and noble saw-bills is a no no. At least it does cover the continuing question about burgeoning farms.... are they really the saviour of the distant isles?

I rather agree with Hoddom about eating farmed salmon, for your health and the environment.

As mentioned elsewhere Mowi and Bakkerfrost have recently had huge fish kills ... if the same happened in a Turkey farm , Christmas would be off! The effect on the environment , destruction of West Coast salmonids and the burden of industrial levels of medical/chemical treatment applied in open net pens is still unsupportable , despite the assertions or silence of the Scottish Gov. and Sainsbury's etc. For farmed salmon there are few exceptions . The strong tideways make Orkney product is mostly 'dose' free and a lack of wild salmon sites mean its not such a risk to native stock..but it is a rare situation .
ICES 2021 resumé of 'The Quest for successful Atlantis salmon restoration' https//doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsab201 points a stern and blunt finger at Norway's and Scotland's salmon farms as a cause of continued decline and failure in restoration of waterways which share geography with open net farms.
Until Salmon are provided by land based RAS units they will remain a poisonous risk for their surroundings and an unsuitable meal for a world diet that needs fewer random antibiotic, plastic particle and chemical inputs.
Also a billion salmon weighing 3 kgs + eat a huge quantity of scad, whiting, anchovy,krill, mackerel, sardine, menhaden, smolts ?!....c. 30% of their diet is forage fish fishmeal, 10 % of world fishmeal stock goes into salmon farms.............. another subject for discussion.
 

goosander

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What i do not understand about the whole farming fish thing is why is it only salmon that is bad. What does the other farmed fish feed on. You can move as many cages onto land as you wish but as long as the parr / smolts are not making it back to the sea then we are wasting our time.
Bob.
 

charlieH

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What i do not understand about the whole farming fish thing is why is it only salmon that is bad. What does the other farmed fish feed on. You can move as many cages onto land as you wish but as long as the parr / smolts are not making it back to the sea then we are wasting our time.
Bob.

Fair questions. In simple terms, I think there are four main potential or actual problems associated with salmon farming. There may be others too, but these are the principal ones I'm aware of.

1. Harvesting of other prey fish for processing, reducing the food available to wild fish.
2. Introduction of diseases to wild fish.
3. Introduction of parasites (eg sea lice) to wild fish.
4. Genetic introgression from escapees interbreeding with wild fish.

To address these in order:

1. You ask what other farmed fish feed on, and this problem is indeed common to all forms of aquaculture (assuming the fish are carnivorous - there are species of fish that are farmed without requiring animal protein in their diet). But without wishing to belittle it, I don't believe that it's the most serious problem facing wild atlantic salmon; much of the fish that is processed into fishmeal is sourced from parts of the world far from our salmon's feeding grounds, and there have also been significant reductions in the proportion of fishmeal that goes into the feed.

2. To take just one example, you only have to look at the devastation of some Norwegian rivers by Gyrodactylus to understand the potential threat of diseases crossing from farmed to wild fish. And of course there are other diseases, too. Fortunately we have so far managed to avoid this in the British Isles, but we should certainly be aware of a potential risk.

3. I think the effect of sea lice infestation on smolts is quite well understood by just about everyone (however much the fish farmers try to pretend otherwise) and I'm sure you don't need me to elaborate on it.

4. My feeling is that genetic introgression, and a consequent loss of fitness is much less well understood than the other problems, but has the potential to impact quite severely on the success of wild fish. You probably need to look at some of the research from Norwegian rivers to appreciate the scale of it - they have done quite a bit of research, and the levels of interbreeding in some rivers is scary.

So while point 1 may apply to many forms of aquaculture, points 2-4 are directly and exclusively the consequences of of open-cage marine salmon farming. Moving to a land-based closed containment system should eliminate all of them. That's why salmon farming as currently practiced is so much worse for wild salmon than other forms of fish farming.
 

meyre

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Bob

Indeed sea farmed Atlantic salmon are not alone in adversely affecting their surroundings.
Asian shrimp farms have led to the removal of , perhaps, 20% of the world's mangrove stands. Escapee grass carp , waste and biochem discharge from tilapia and basa in river and lake units have poisoned or denatured the environment.
Open net farming with direct water access will change local the environment. Even very closely monitored operations such as triploid trout units adjacent to chalk streams of S. UK pose a risk of disease , though not escapees or waste .

So can freshwater RAS ( Recirculation/ing Aquaculture Systems ) address the 'nastiness' of farmed open pen salmon and perhaps other species?
Logically yes.
We do need recall how welcome the notion of farmed Atlantic salmon seemed in the early 80's. They were to have saved the wild stock. The dreadful shroud of lice and the poisonous results of their population explosion, control, and bio/chem treatment on the livestock and wild fish was unexpected and disastrous.
RAS addresses the lice, disease, waste and location problems that are the lot of open sea or loch farms.
Below is a fair list of upside benefits. If there are downsides it would be as well to think of them before this growing sector becomes the new norm.

Those counter arguments are expense and the threat to regional jobs. Are there others?

Sea water RAS is possible using recirculated 'deep-sea' water which carries little biota but it is not a sealed system and limits locations to oceanside sites.. Providing and maintaining seawater poses chemical and biological risks which are deemed an unnecessary expense by this new side of the industry.

Associated benefits of RAS fish farming
  • Maximum production in a standalone sealed unit.
  • Less water and land requirement. 90% returned recirculation
  • Complete control of environmental parameters. Limited influence or distortion on/of environment.
  • Easy growing and harvesting
  • Effective disease control. No antibiotics or chemicals . UV treatment precludes need for dosing water or fish.
  • No waste. Waste may be employed as compostable fuel. Feed for insect inclusions ( soldier fly lava ) . Medium for enriching in-station horticulture - it will form a source of income not an environmental/commercial cost.
  • No discharge into neighbouring water systems.
  • No lice.
  • No predator interaction.
  • No escapees.
  • No disease transmission
  • Carbon neutral. Green energy adopted from own water and waste Ability to locate RAS site adjacent to distribution hubs or point of use.
  • Aspect. RAS may be placed cryptically and not in full view as are open pens.
 

nickolas

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Bob

Indeed sea farmed Atlantic salmon are not alone in adversely affecting their surroundings.
Asian shrimp farms have led to the removal of , perhaps, 20% of the world's mangrove stands. Escapee grass carp , waste and biochem discharge from tilapia and basa in river and lake units have poisoned or denatured the environment.
Open net farming with direct water access will change local the environment. Even very closely monitored operations such as triploid trout units adjacent to chalk streams of S. UK pose a risk of disease , though not escapees or waste .

So can freshwater RAS ( Recirculation/ing Aquaculture Systems ) address the 'nastiness' of farmed open pen salmon and perhaps other species?
Logically yes.
We do need recall how welcome the notion of farmed Atlantic salmon seemed in the early 80's. They were to have saved the wild stock. The dreadful shroud of lice and the poisonous results of their population explosion, control, and bio/chem treatment on the livestock and wild fish was unexpected and disastrous.
RAS addresses the lice, disease, waste and location problems that are the lot of open sea or loch farms.
Below is a fair list of upside benefits. If there are downsides it would be as well to think of them before this growing sector becomes the new norm.

Those counter arguments are expense and the threat to regional jobs. Are there others?

Sea water RAS is possible using recirculated 'deep-sea' water which carries little biota but it is not a sealed system and limits locations to oceanside sites.. Providing and maintaining seawater poses chemical and biological risks which are deemed an unnecessary expense by this new side of the industry.

Associated benefits of RAS fish farming
  • Maximum production in a standalone sealed unit.
  • Less water and land requirement. 90% returned recirculation
  • Complete control of environmental parameters. Limited influence or distortion on/of environment.
  • Easy growing and harvesting
  • Effective disease control. No antibiotics or chemicals . UV treatment precludes need for dosing water or fish.
  • No waste. Waste may be employed as compostable fuel. Feed for insect inclusions ( soldier fly lava ) . Medium for enriching in-station horticulture - it will form a source of income not an environmental/commercial cost.
  • No discharge into neighbouring water systems.
  • No lice.
  • No predator interaction.
  • No escapees.
  • No disease transmission
  • Carbon neutral. Green energy adopted from own water and waste Ability to locate RAS site adjacent to distribution hubs or point of use.
  • Aspect. RAS may be placed cryptically and not in full view as are open pens.
You have hit the nail on the head as far as farmed fish, spot on, you only need to look at what is happening round the world to see wild creatures and plants are in serious decline.
 

Loxie

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Just a point on fishmeal. Fishmeal fisheries are highly regulated and certified sustainable. The fishermen who participate are not catching fish for any particular market, but for fishmeal which is a commodity like any other. If global aquaculture stopped using fishmeal exactly the same quantity would be fished. It's a complete red herring, if you will excuse the pun. If there is an issue with fishmeal sustainability then that is not aquaculture's problem.
 

meyre

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Truly fishmeal is as you say a side-line .
Though it has slumped from over 70% to as little as 14% inclusion in some salmon feeds it remains contentious. . It is recognised as a weak spot in aquaculture's 'sustainability' claim. What the industry cannot seem to lose are the other cons from sea lice to antibiotics and massive die offs.
Below is an example of how Mowi is addressing fishmeal, perhaps the easiest image improver..... This Mowi does in a year when their operational EBIT was negatively impacted by EUR 8 million (USD 9.1 million) related to extraordinary mortalities in Canada East. This affected total margin in the quarter by EUR 0.07 (USD 0.08) per kilogram. An update from the company on 14 January revealed it lost more than 1.7 million fish in Eastern Canada in 2021, including 570,238 Atlantic salmon from its Deep Water Point site and 184,598 Atlantic salmon from the Little Burdock Cove site, as a result of a combination of sea lice pressure, treatments, and prolonged rough weather at site.
Do not worry Mowi is a company with a t/o of 3.8$billon ..... they will make Newfoundland profitable eventually.

''Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever created, with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020), in addition to private investment that it will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.

With the aim of driving economic growth and creating jobs, Horizon 2020 has the political backing of Europe’s leaders and Members of the European Parliament. With the research acting as an investment in our future, it is at the heart of the EU’s blueprint for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs.

Mowi Feed is delighted to be part of three significant projects including Oleaf4value. Today, olive leaves are large untapped biomass from the olive oil industry. Oleaf4value hopes to find new ways to use the leaves, such as adding them to salmon feed.
4.5 million tonnes of olive leaves are produced annually worldwide by the olive oil industry. These olive leaves contain so-called bioactive components, which are substances that can strengthen, for example, the immune system.
The AquaIMPACT (trials will focus on the interaction between diet and genetic selection for improving pigmentation) .and NextGen Proteins (algal meal, bacterial meal produced from wood waste, and insect meal) projects are also well underway – please click the links to find out more about Mowi Feed’s involvement.
''

Mowi's diligence in meal will be replicated throughout aquaculture and in effect the adoption of algae/insects will simply help RAS be the 'clean and responsible' future of salmon and other fish farms.
 

goosander

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Thank you for the above information. I found it very interesting.
Like a lot of people i thought that salmon farming was going to be the saviour of the wild fish. I remember when U.D.N. came on the scene and killed off the stocks of fish. With in a few years the rivers were back to were they had been. Am sure that the fish waste from on land farms would make good garden fertilizer which would save an other problem.
It got me thinking about our food. My wife's favourite food is chicken which is massed produced to such an extent that a lot of them can not even walk. Wonder why this has not been brought to the publics notice. The way theses birds are reared is as bad as salmon but not a mention.
Bob.
 

meyre

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Indeed fish&food waste filtered from an RAS factories is designated for the unit's fuel or for adjacent seedlings/salad production.

Chickens - oven ready in as little as 8 weeks . Flavourless vehicle for gravy . Widely accepted. Versatile protein . Low cost.

I think that is how the US Department of Food and Nutrition summed up broilers . In the US they became big money, Marlene Dietrich married a 'Chicken Farmer' . These birds were fed on the unwanted brushings of the grains of the mighty prairies and they fitted diner/canteen cooking just like burgers - Welfare was for children and the indigent, not animals.

So to address matters ESG . The treatment of industrial proteins is a growing concern for producers as are costs . Scottish salmon @ 4.08/kg costs 21% more to produce than Norwegian. That unsupportable difference is due to partly to poor infrastructure and location but mostly to problems with gill disease and lice generated infections.

Chickens, which here until the late 1950's were costly, gamey and fit like an end of season hen pheasant, are also subject to price hikes due to steeper feed and energy costs. They may rise in price but fear not cheep US chooks can be expected on the back of a stronger pound and the expectations of a nation that rightly will not pay much for nothing.

However farmers of fish or fowl cannot walk away from present examples of abuse. No matter how hard Eustice and Studgeon lobby for farms and jobs eventually even the Express will be raging about ' Blind Zombie Fish' and ' Supermarkets serve up Sick Chicken ' to our NHS.

Neither will disappear but both will have to tidy up their product . Quite soon Sainsbury's and Tesco's will be proffering Kleen-Farm Nature Sure Chicken thighs and No Mess RAS salmon slices. We won't be able to buy cheap cigars or beer over 2% but that's progress eh?
At least it the salmon and chicken's manure will not all be found at sea.
 
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