February 23, 2021
Profit-pursuing salmon producers causing serious consequences for fish stocks, ecosystem, report says
A report by research organisation Just Economics claimed that salmon producers' short-term pursuing of profits is leading to serious, unaccounted environmental and social costs, such as growing mortality rates, damage to local ecosystems, pressure on wild fish stocks and poor fish welfare.
Commissioned by the Changing Markets Foundation – an organisation that "supports NGOs to drive change" – as part of its Fishing the Feed campaign, the "Dead Loss" report calculates the cumulative costs to economies, society and the environment resulting from the negative impacts of salmon farming at almost US$50 billion since 2013.
In the top four salmon-producing countries of Norway, Scotland, Canada and Chile, which collectively account for 96% of the world's 2.6 million tonnes of farmed salmon, more than half these costs (US$28 billion) are falling to producers , with the remaining US$19 billion (EUR 15.7 billion) being passed on to society.
The report deems that transparency and accountability are extremely weak in the salmon-farming sector, while legislation is needed for the industry to meet higher standards. It also recommends that governments must require improvements in social, economic and environmental accounting and ensure more robust regulation of salmon farming by restricting licenses and subsidies to companies that meet higher standards.
Additionally, the report calls on companies to diversify the species cultivated via aquaculture, prioritising non-carnivorous species and improving fish husbandry, and urges the industry to introduce technologies to address risks and drive a rapid transition toward alternative feeds and farming practices.
Concurrently, the report wants investors to take a long-term view. This may involve accepting lower returns in the short-term but will create competitive advantage in the long run, it said.
Multiple associations representing the salmon-farming industry have countered the report, calling it misleading.
"Unfortunately, a review of the paper makes it clear that this is simply activism masquerading as academic analysis," International Salmon Farmers Association president Trond Davidson told SeaWest News. "The paper is not supported by facts, includes no discussions with independent experts, and lacks the critical context required to offer useful insights.
"Beyond the big numbers in the headlines, the report relies on several data points that are carefully cherry-picked, and in some cases, are no more than guesses."