Factory farming of fish is a pretty common practice these days, but as with all intensive food production methods, it comes with harmful side effects for nature and for humans.
There are a number of reasons why factory farming is a problem for both the fishing industry and the environment. According to Food and Water Watch, it’s actually a harmful and unsustainable practice.
First of all, it creates quite a lot of pollution, and not only from the ships that go out there to catch the fish. Untreated fish waste, excess feed and dead fish empty directly from cages into the ocean and this has already altered fragile marine habitats. Antibiotics, pesticides and the other chemicals used in these operations can also harm the marine environment, and evidence is building to this effect. Not only do these compounds end up in unfarmed fish, they kill beneficial sea floor bacteria and develop antibiotic-resistant organisms. One study found that the use of antimicrobials on fish farms can lead to the creation of reservoirs of drug-resistant bacteria. Scarily, these pathogens may ultimately transfer to humans. Aside from running out of healthy fish to eat, we could find ourselves struggling with more antibiotic-resistant diseases too.
Fish escapes might sound comedic, but they are a major problem after storms or other events. When fish that have lived in a farm breed with wild fish, their offspring have less survival skills, meaning the overall fish population comes from a weaker gene pool.
One might think that farmed fish help to cut down on the exploitation of wild ones, but the reverse is actually true. There is a massive industry in fish feed that is putting pressure on wild stocks. Aside from this, the fish caught to produce fishmeal are not there for their predators to feed on, meaning other breeds suffer too.
Aside from concerns about what you actually eat when you eat farmed fish, this industry has the potential to remove fish from your diet altogether. Next time you are in the supermarket, take another look at that packaging, you may not be getting the healthy meal you think you are.