Fish Farms (Aquaculture) and Eco Labels

A lot of fish and seafood people eat comes from farms (about 40% of the world production comes from fish farms). At first glance and taking into account of global overfishing, apparently a very encouraging fact. However, such numbers are to be taken with caution, because most fish farms are located in China. Fisheries researchers suggest that China reports much too high numbers for its aquaculture to the FAO.

Due to declining fishing yields and rising demand for fish products, the market reacts to the construction of new fish farms and a number of certificates that are intended to show that a fish product was produced sustainably. But the conservation organization Pro Wildlife warns from such eco-labels. “Fish eco-labels convey the impression that environmentally friendly fish consumption is possible”, says the pro-wildlife biologist Sandra Altherr.

In 1999 the WWF and Unilever launched the MSC label (Marine Stewardship Council), which will guarantee sustainable fisheries. Its symbol is a blue fish, which now emblazoned on many products. But by now organizations such as Pro Wildlife criticize the label because in the meantime even fish from the destructive bottom trawling is certified by this label. In addition to that the label also did not help the overfished stocks of blue hake (hoki) in the Pacific and the Canadian sockeye salmon. Even after these species have been MSC-certified the stocks went back so strong that the quota had to be reduced.
“With marine eco labels the consumer is suggested that he protects the seas by purchasing a certified product – but that does not work” says Altherr. “It’s no good if people do not start eating less fish because the current demand cannot be ecologically sustainable provided.”

The average European consumes about 22 kilograms of fish and seafood per year. Every year around one hundred million tons of fish and seafood are caught worldwide.

In many cases fish farms have catastrophic effects on the marine ecosystem. Original areas are partially destroyed to create fish farms and there is a high demand for feed for the fish farms, because the farmed animals are fed mainly with fish meal and fish oil. Around one third of the fish caught on the globe will be processed on these products. But to produce one kilogram of farmed fish, four to five kilograms of fish must be caught in the sea.

Due to the extreme pollution of the Baltic Sea the wild fish are no longer approved for human consumption because they are extremely poisoned with dioxin, PCP, heavy metals, mercury and pesticides. These fish are now simply processed into dry food (pellets) for farmed fish in fish farms, because therefor the legal regulations are not so strict. These farmed fish are then treated intensively with pesticides against parasites and diseases. Pesticides, known as neurotoxin, are also used for this purpose.
Meanwhile the meat of farmed fish contains insecticides, pesticides, antibiotics and other substances of chemical products. By medication, farmed fish grow twice as fast as normal and generate 3-6 times more fat than a normal fish. Medicines and pesticides are enriched in fat and make the fish one of the most poisonous foods ever.

Another problem is the feces of the fish and unused fish meal, which trickle through the nets of aquacultures on the seafloor and there smother life and mutate massive the ecosystem on the seafloor.
Farmed fish repeatedly escape from fish farms that are often not native to the respective areas, and thus displace native fish species. Thus, the wild stocks of salmon have declined by 45% in the last 20 years.

However, since profit is still more important than the health of the population, nothing is done against these abuses. The times when fish were a healthy food (whether wild or farmed fish) are definitely gone.