Global campaign raises awareness about the impacts of fish farms
The global campaign “The World Day for the End of Fishing”, that informs consumers about how to be more conscious and responsible in regards to the consumption of fish and seafood, is being promoted in Latin America and Southeast Asia this week. The international NGO Sinergia Animal will be leading efforts and providing easy recipes and ideas to substitute seafood and fish with plant-based options to save animals and preserve the environment.
The yearly event is being held by 164 organizations around the world. The campaign was created by the Swiss organization Pour l'Égalité Animale (PEA), which means “For Animal Equality”, in 2016, and this year it is focused on the impacts of fish farming, also called aquaculture. In Latin America and Southeast Asia, Sinergia Animal published an e-book with 15 sea-inspired vegan recipes and other hacks that is available for free download at sinergiaanimalinternational.org/sea-recipes. They will also be publishing educational materials about this subject on its Facebook (facebook.com/sinergiaanimalinternational), Instagram (instagram.com/sinergiaanimalinternational) and Twitter (twitter.com/sinergia_animal) this week.
“Many consumers believe that aquaculture is more sustainable than fishing in the sea, but this is really a big misconception. The farming of fish, prawns and other types of aquatic animals can actually be even more harmful and are also responsible for the depletion of biodiversity in the oceans”, says Aline Baroni, Global Communications Director of Sinergia Animal, an animal protection organization dedicated to fight the worst practices of factory farming in countries of the Global South and promote more compassionate food choices.
Up to 1,100 billion fish are caught at sea each year just to feed aquaculture animals such as the carnivorous salmon or omnivorous tilapias. For example, the industry estimations say in order to produce 1 kg of salmon, it’s necessary more than 800 g of wild fish — and this number doesn’t even consider bycatch, which are the marine animals accidentally captured during sea fishing.
Overfishing is such a pressing issue that even Netflix is releasing a new documentary, “Seaspiracy”, on March 24th, about the subject. The film tackles how the fishing industry is directly linked to biodiversity reduction, human trafficking, climate change, and how human life will be threatened unless we “leave oceans alone”, in the words of Sea Shepherd’s founder, Captain Paul Watson.
The concerning reality of fish farms
Fish farms account for 47% of the total fish production worldwide and it is about to overtake all captured fisheries by 2024. The fast paced growth raises concerns among scientists and activists, who claim the activity is detrimental for the environment, and also risky for public health and cruel for animals.
“Fish farms frequently consist of filthy ponds or pens, with poor water quality, where fish are subjected to diseases and are left to be eaten alive by all sorts of parasites, from sea lice to fungus”, explains Baroni. An investigation released this week by NGO Compassion in World Farming shows salmons with open wounds and blind in Scotland, the third largest producer of this species in the world.
To prevent disease outbreaks caused by the unsanitary conditions of the farms, the fishing industry often uses antibiotics. This practice can lead to the contamination of water and soil with both antibiotics and resistant bacteria, but also directly infect the meat people consume. Some studies point out that even antibiotics banned more than 10 years ago for fish farms in some countries can still be detected in aquaculture products.
The animal welfare component is also a problematic topic in these farms. Fish, which are proven to be capable of feeling a myriad of sensations and emotions, are raised often with minimal space for expressing their natural behaviours. The high densities often lead to fights and injuries due to the stress. “Those who don’t rot to death are slaughtered through asphyxiation, or by being skinned, cut open and gutted while conscious, among other cruel methods”, states Baroni.
Sinergia Animal invites anyone who is concerned about the impacts of animal agriculture to reconsider what they choose to eat. “After learning about all of these factors, it is important for people to know there is a way out. One of the best things we can do to change this reality is leaving animal products, including sea animals, out of our plates”, suggests Baroni.