Five decades ago, it was reported that humans could essentially catch so many fish that the oceans would become barren. At that time, the annual fish catch had increased from 23 million tons in 1953 to 46 million tons in 1963.1,2
Today fish catches have increased even more, reaching 93 million tons in 2014, according to the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the United Nations.3
However, a report published in Nature Communications suggested that such estimates may ignore small-scale fisheries, illegal fisheries and discarded bycatch and thus be an underestimate.
The report suggested fish catches may have peaked at 130 million tons in 2010 and, on a slightly brighter note, may have been on the decline since then.4 What is clear from the numbers, whether they're an underestimate or not, is that current fishing trends are not sustainable.
Aquaculture or fish farming may therefore seem like the sustainable solution to "farm" fish and protect wild species, but the reality is anything but.
Fish Farms Breed Disease That May Harm Wild Salmon
Fish farms share many similarities with land-based concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and are sometimes referred to as CAFOs of the sea. The fish are crowded in close quarters that allow for the rapid growth of sea lice, bacteria and viruses.
Among them is Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI), which as been detected in farmed fish in Norway and British Columbia.
HSMI has been responsible for devastating commercial fish farms in Norway, where it is considered the No. 3 cause of mortality, according to a 2015 annual report by seafood company Marine Harvest.5
It first emerged in Norwegian fish farms in 1999 but was only recently discovered in British Columbia.
Experts such as biologist Alexandra Morton, who has authored more than two dozen papers on the impact of fish farms, believe this and other viruses linked to the fish farms have been plaguing commercial and wild salmon for years.
Piscine reovirus, which is associated with HSMI, for instance, is found in virtually all farmed fish in British Columbia and may also be affecting wild migrating salmon.
In the video above, Twyla Roscovich, filmmaker of the documentary "Salmon Confidential," expands on concerns surrounding piscine reovirus, which gives salmon a heart attack and prevents them from swimming upriver.
Despite the concerns that fish farms are spreading disease that could decimate wild salmon, the government continues to extend the corporate fish farm leases for years at a clip. News organization The Tyee reported:6
"About 100 salmon fish farms now dot the southern B.C. coast. The majority of these ocean feedlots, which rear as many as a million fish in an area the size of four football fields, are owned by the Japanese Mitsibushi Corporation or the Norwegian firms Marine Harvest and Greig.
The industry employs approximately 5,000 people and exports about 68,000 tonnes of farmed Atlantic salmon, mainly to China and the United States."
Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISA) Widespread in Salmon
Wild salmon that died before spawning have tested positive for a number of salmon viruses, including the highly lethal infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus, also known as salmon influenza.
First detected in Norway in 1984, infection spread to other countries via egg imports. In Chile, ISA virus wiped out 70 percent of the country's salmon industry, at a cost of $2 billion. But Chile has no native salmon to decimate. British Columbia does.
And contrary to Chile, the wild salmon of British Columbia are absolutely critical to the ecosystem and residents of the area. The locals don't just make money off these fish; it's a main staple of their diet.
According to Morton, at least 11 species of fish in the Fraser River have been found to be infected with European-strain ISA virus.
Morton tested farmed salmon purchased in various stores and sushi restaurants around British Columbia, and samples tested positive for at least three different salmon viruses, including ISA, piscine reovirus and salmon alphaviruses.
Yet the Canadian food inspection agency has aggressively refuted the findings, and even attacked the credibility of two of the most preeminent experts on ISA testing, who testified that positive results were found to the Cohen Commission.
In fact, everyone who has spoken up about these salmon viruses, which can be traced back to salmon farms, has been shut down in some way or another.