World Environment News

Ecology Body Warns of Dangers from Fish Farms

Date: 12-Aug-03

And the Swiss-based body said fish escaping from pens used by the growing number of salmon-breeding businesses on inland rivers could speed the destruction of stocks of wild Atlantic salmon, highly prized for its rich taste.

"The spread of the aquaculture (sea farming) industry must be controlled to avoid physical damage to coastal ecosystems and wild species and to lessen negative environmental impacts on coastal communities," WWF expert Simon Cripps said.

Farm-free zones and marine protected areas should be set up around coastlines to protect vulnerable species and the environment in which they lived.

The statement from the body -- known generally as the World Wide Fund for Nature but called the World Wildlife Fund in the United States -- was issued in advance of a major gathering of industry representatives in Norway on Tuesday.

The gathering, AquaNor, is held every two years, attracting fish farmers from all over northern Europe, and some from much farther afield. Some 20,000 are expected to attend this year's meeting and exhibition in Trondheim.

WWF-International said fish and shellfish farming was the world's fastest-growing food sector, worth more than $56 billion annually, and was set to overtake cattle ranching by the end of the current decade.

"The industry, which provides one third of the fish consumed globally, has been allowed to grow unchecked, resulting in an increasing number of environmental problems," said the privately -funded body, which has national sections in most countries.

In 2002, the WWF said, more than 630,000 farmed salmon had escaped in Norway alone -- more than the total number of the already-endangered wild Atlantic salmon spawning in its rivers.

"Interbreeding with escaped farmed salmon is expected to alter in wild salmon the unique genetic makeup which allows them to migrate from freshwater to the ocean and back to freshwater to spawn," the statement added.

Fish farms on coastlines, the WWF said, can damage the environment by releasing food waste, pathogens and chemicals into the water and air. This had already caused damage to the habitat of other animals and fish in Scotland and Norway.

"Aquaculture can play an important role in providing an adequate supply of fish to consumers, but it must happen in tandem with sustainable practices," Cripps declared.

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