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Commentaries and editorials

Not So Green

by Brendan O'Neill
Lewiston Tribune, February 17, 2005

The recent editorial "George W. Bush, the Accidental Environmentalist" [Jan. 29] mistakenly asserts that salmon farming is a "green" industry.

The environmental problems associated with farming salmon are numerous and well documented. For starters, several pounds of wild fish are still required to grow each pound of farmed salmon, calling into question the author's primary assertion that salmon farming is "green" because it reduces pressure on wild fisheries. And while alternatives to feeds based on wild fish exist -- including soy-based and algae-based feeds -- industry has been slow to accept or promote these options.

In addition, salmon farms have been shown to be detrimental to the surrounding environment. In Scotland and British Columbia, these farms have been linked to the transfer of parasitic sea lice to wild fish, and throughout all salmon farming areas, escapes from farms continue to be a major problem. Contrary to the author's statement that escapes have been "virtually eliminated," recent news reports indicate nearly half a million salmon and trout escaped from cages in Norway in 2004. And, unfortunately the aquaculture industry is rapidly expanding the farming of other carnivorous fish, including tuna, cod, and halibut, which could cause similar environmental problems.

The administration is making the mistake of assuming that the expansion of marine finfish farming in coastal and offshore waters will be "green." In so doing, they are also missing the opportunity to support more environmentally friendly fish farming methods, such as closed land-based systems.

Aquaculture surely will play an important role in the future of our seafood supply, but in order to be sustainable in the long run, it must be conducted in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

Brendan O'Neill, Coordinator, SeaWeb Aquaculture Center, Washington, D.C.
Not So Green
Lewiston Tribune, February 17, 2005

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