At this point, you don’t have to be a member of Greenpeace to know that aquaculture presents an enormous slew of problems that we don’t fully understand. A recent article from Science News does a good job of explaining what can sometimes be a complicated issue.
I am not the sort of person to be swayed by sensationalism, but when estimates show that Norway’s 500,000 returning wild Atlantic salmon each year are dwarfed by the 380,000,000 (yeah, that’s 760 times more) Atlantic salmon currently in marine farms within the country, it’s almost impossible not to react with shock. I don’t even come at this from a particularly environmentalist standpoint. I simply think that we might very well be doing catastrophic damage to both individual species and broader ecosystems without understanding the true impact.
On a somewhat unrelated note, one of the more illuminating books I’ve read on aquaculture is An Entirely Synthetic Fish by Anders Halverson. This book, and the broader topic, have made me seriously consider three things. First of all, entirely benign motives can lead to serious consequences. Are fish-farmers the bad guys? I’m not convinced. They are just out to make a buck, and consumer are more than willing to eat it up (see the second graphic in the Science News piece).
Secondly, and perhaps more difficult to answer, is the question of what words like wild and native really mean. At what point is a wild fish no longer wild? Is there a genetic percentage threshold that, once crossed, can never be regained?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what the hell are we doing?