The truth about salmon farming
Farmed or wild salmon?
Like terrestrial farming, salmon farming makes sense. Here's why:
• There are no Atlantic salmon found in the wild in Australia.
• Other wild salmon species are not always good to eat - their taste and quality will vary depending on where they have been caught and how difficult their life has been.
• Farmed salmon is very closely monitored, managed and protected to help it become the tasty and healthy food it is.
• Eminent international scientists say that, with respect to safety, there is no difference between wild and farmed fish for the consumer.
• The world is running out of arable land and wild fish – salmon farming ensures we have a high-quality, nutritious food for people all-year-round and into the future.
• Farmed salmon are harvested with very little impact on the environment.
• In Australia, as the wild fish catch has declined, the production of farmed salmon has been increasing.
• Farmed salmon has significant economic benefits for the State – it's worth almost $550 million a year and employs thousands of Tasmanians directly and indirectly.
Sharing the marine environment with seals
While Tasmanian salmon growers recognise that seals are the natural inhabitants of the marine environment in which they operate, the industry is also very aware that they are strong predators attracted to salmon in farms.
The industry's main goal is to reduce interaction between the seals and the farms, investing significantly in the further development of seal exclusion technology.
Employee safety is obviously of critical concern to the industry.
The industry and the Tasmanian Government have developed detailed protocols if it becomes necessary to relocate problem seals. This can only happen under the strict Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) protocols.
The industry is committed to passive deterrents. The last resort is (always) to euthanise a seal. There are clear protocols in place for this and can only be performed by a licensed veterinarian. It is a rare event strictly regulated by DPIPWE.
Farm siting processes require environmental assessments to ensure that farms are not located in areas of sensitive habitat. Salmon farmers regularly fallow farm sites, similar to crop rotation, to allow the sea bed to naturally decompose the waste.
The area impacted by salmon farms is quite small. Effects diminish rapidly as one moves away from the farm pens, and there are no significant visual, physicochemical or biological impacts at or extending beyond 35m from the boundary of marine farming lease areas.
Tasmanian salmon farmers employ state-of-the art feed monitoring systems that use real-time technology, such as underwater cameras, to measure uneaten feed and adjust feed delivery to the appetite of the salmon. Considerable work has also been done to develop feeds that the fish can digest more efficiently, also resulting in less waste generation.
The diet of Tasmanian farmed salmon is strictly controlled to ensure optimal growth and development.
Contrary to some views, farmed salmon is not fed large quantities of wild fish – this would not meet their dietary requirements.
Farmed salmon in Tasmania are fed fish meal – a concentrated powder comprising small bony oceanic fish and fish oil.
Only part of this feed depends on marine resources, which are limited, so it's in the industry's interests that fish stocks used for the meal and oil are sustainably managed.
At the same time, the industry and its partners are researching alternatives for the future, such as development of vegetable protein to further ease pressure on fish and fish oil based feeds.
Skretting tracing the truth
Salmon feed & the use of wild fish ingredients in feed for farmed salmon
Like all farmers, Tasmanian salmon growers are committed to looking after the health and wellbeing of their fish.
Like people, salmon occasionally get sick and require medication.
Quite rarely, antibiotics are required. Antibiotics are used for only very short periods, always under the strict prescription and supervision of a veterinarian and only in response to specific, isolated health issues.
In keeping with the Australian and New Zealand food safety standards and world’s best practice in aquaculture, any fish treated with antibiotics are not harvested until these medications have cleared their systems.
Tasmanian salmon growers are actively supporting and funding future vaccine development to further help farmed salmon deal with stress and the bacteria that can make them sick.
Marine farms have historically used anti-fouling copper-based paints on nets to control algae growth on them.
In the Tasmanian salmon industry, this is done within strict guidelines set by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
While research shows no effect on fish and the impact on the environment near farms to be relatively minor, it is acknowledged that there could be a greater impact in the wider environment.
For that reason, it makes sense to find other ways to maintain our nets, and the industry has been working hard to do that.
The industry is therefore working to reduce the need to use anti-fouling paints on fish farm nets.
Anti-fouling paint use has decreased over the past three years, and is forecast to decrease further.
Salmon break out from pens infrequently and improved farming techniques have reduced escapes dramatically.
Farmed salmon live a pampered life. All of their needs are met; they are protected from predators and are fed as much food as they care to eat every day. A farmed salmon that escapes into the wild is poorly adapted for survival.
Of the escaped Atlantic salmon that are recovered, more than 95% have nothing in their stomachs clearly demonstrating their poor ability to obtain food. In a recent study (Abrantes et al 2010) stomach content analysis indicated that Atlantic salmon do not feed on native fauna as most stomachs were either empty or contained non-nutritious food like twigs and leaves.
Specific measures to reduce escapes include:
• comprehensive diving regime to routinely monitor net integrity
• all stock transactions conducted in weather conditions that do not present an unacceptable risk of fish escape
• all cages, nets and mooring systems appropriate for the prevailing weather conditions, currents, water depths and seabed characteristics
• appropriate procedures and staff training and education are implemented regarding key processes that pose a higher risk of an escape event if not performed correctly