As global human populations continue to rise and climate change begins to wreak havoc on local ecosystems, sustainable food production is more important than ever. Farmers already have their work cut out for them feeding the billions of people on the planet, but salmon farming provides a simple, cost-effective, healthy solution. Read on to find out why farmed salmon is poised to become the food of the future.
Reduced Impact on Local Ecosystems
When people first began farming salmon, it created problems in local ecosystems by diverting resources and introducing both parasites and non-native species. The Global Salmon Initiative has been hard at work making positive change in the industry, though, and now, salmon farming causes far less ecological destruction than harvesting fish from the wild. Given the pressures already facing local marine ecosystems as a result of climate change, it’s important to protect what fish reserves the oceans have left.
A Nutritionally Dense Food Source
People need protein. Most can’t get sufficient amounts of this key nutrient from plants, alone. Thankfully, salmon is extremely rich in protein, among other key nutrients. It’s also rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
There’s a common misconception that farmed salmon isn’t as healthy as wild-caught salmon. The USDA recently cleared up this misconception by publishing a study showing that farmed salmon is still a significant source of omega-3 fatty acids.
People need to eat sufficient protein to maintain energy, healthy immune responses, and metabolic reactions. They need omega-3 fatty acids to maintain heart health. While there is not enough wild salmon to support a growing population, the growing coalition of global salmon farmers could help to supply the world with nutritionally dense food.
A More Efficient Farming Option
There are other sources of animal-based protein. Currently, many people in developed nations eat large quantities of beef, pork, and other farmed livestock. Unfortunately, livestock farming is not a cost-effective option for feeding large and ever-growing amounts of people across the world.
Traditional livestock farming requires an unsustainable amount of inputs. It also tends to negatively impact local ecosystems and, in some cases, is contributing to climate change. Just about everyone with an ear to the ground has heard that cattle farming raises methane levels in the atmosphere. No one has similar complaints to levy at the aquaculture industry.
Salmon farming is efficient both in terms of costs and environmental sustainability. It can be performed in many coastal areas across the globe, reducing transit times for harvested fish. When farmers follow industry standards for sustainability, it can also have a positive impact on the environment.
The Fishing Industry Is Depleting Wild Populations
Commercial fishing is depleting the oceans. In many countries, lawmakers have put protections in place to stop local fish populations from dropping dangerously low. In some cases, these increased regulations have helped to reduce stress on wild fish populations. The other side of the coin is that they also lead to less fish making its way to local markets.
With the additional stresses on the ocean occurring as a result of climate change and ecological destruction, it’s unreasonable to assume that stop-gap measures will be able to restore wild populations to their former levels. Salmon farming reduces the number of wild-caught fish being removed from the ocean, protecting a valuable resource.
One of the great things about salmon farming is that these days, sustainable aquaculture operations are popping up all over the world. They’re not just providing food for people. They’re also creating jobs.
Working at a fish farm can lead to a promising career. Unlike fishing for wild salmon, it doesn’t require a massive investment. When fish farms get established, they draw from local populations of workers, ultimately benefiting the entire community.
Opportunities for Research
The data on salmon health and potential problems facing farmed salmon populations can often be applied to wild populations. Salmon farmers that work with research scientists can be a source of valuable information about fish health. That’s good news for anyone interested in protecting marine environments and supporting salmon health, more generally.
Commercial fishermen also work with research scientists to evaluate current population levels and potential risks to those fish populations. However, they don’t have the same level of control over independent variables. The information provided by local fish farmers across the globe can be of great value to marine conservation biologists and others interested in studying salmon and fish, in general.
Farmed Salmon Is Becoming More Sustainable All the Time
Farmed salmon is still the subject of much debate. However, detractors often draw from outdated information in attempting to malign aquaculture. It’s true that in its infancy, salmon farming was not an ecologically healthy activity. Pathogens were introduced into wild fish populations and waste was not handled appropriately.
These days, all that has changed. Aquaculture advocates have been hard at work establishing industry standards that prevent farmers from engaging in potentially dangerous activities. A combination of modern technology and improved transparency has dramatically improved the ecological sustainability of aquaculture on all scales.
Despite the dramatic changes the salmon farming industry has undergone in recent years, there are still many misconceptions about farmed salmon. People assume that it’s less healthy, less nutritious, or less sustainable than fishing when that’s simply no longer the case.
The Future Is Here
The future is here, and it’s time to embrace it. The world is already struggling to combat climate change and its dramatic impacts on not just local ecosystems, but also agricultural systems designed to keep human populations well-fed and healthy. The world cannot continue on the path it is currently on without eventually causing widespread famine and further ecological degradation.
Now is not the time to engage in fruitless debates about the supposed benefits of wild-caught versus farmed salmon. It’s time to start paying attention to the data and recognize that modern aquaculture provides a safe, equally nutritious, and more sustainable alternative to commercial fishing. Consumers can do their part by purchasing GSI-certified farmed salmon and becoming advocates for this promising agricultural field.