Industrial-Scale Fish Farming Still Damaging, Despite Environmental Progress


photo: Ivan Walsh/Creative Commons

The first global assessment of the environmental impacts of industrial-scale fish farming has found, even when current best practices are implemented, environmental degradation is increased. The University of Victoria's Dr John Volpe, who headed the research team, says, "Scale is critical."Dr Volpe notes that even though important strides have been made in reducing the environmental impact of large scale farming of fish such as salmon, cod, turbot and grouper per ton of fish raised, "this does not give the complete picture. Large scale farming of salmon, for example...creates large scale problems."

To measure that damage, the Global Aquaculture Performance Index has been developed--touted as "an unprecedented system for objectively measuring the environmental performance of fish farming." (Science Daily)

Here's how the GAPI process works:

Researchers scored marine finfish across ten indicators of environmental performance considered to be the most significant and measurable for marine finfish aquaculture, such as the impacts on marine ecosystems of antibiotics used or number of escaped fish (see figure 1). using publicly available data, the researchers were able to measure how close performance comes to a perfect score or zero impact (e.g., zero fish escape). they derived the overall score by summing scores from each indicator on a scale of 0-100, where a higher score indicates better environmental performance. while a perfect score may not be achieved by any species or country, the scoring system allows observers to clearly demarcate the leaders and laggards in each indicator and overall performance. Because the GAPI scoring system is based on how close an industry segment is to zero impact, it avoids the problem inherent in many standard-setting systems of deciding on a threshold score or performance that is "good enough."

global aquaculture performance index image

image: Lenfest Ocean Program

As for which species and countries fared best and worst, the current GAPI scores range from a low of 19 for Japanese sea bass from China, to a high of 96 received for turbot farmed in France.

Unfortunately, the fastest growing sectors of fish farming are also the worst performing. Marine fish famed in tropical and sub-tropical waters had some of the worst scores, yet production there has grown over 40% per year for the last five years.

More info: Global Aquaculture Performance Index [PDF]

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More on Fish Farming:
Factory Fish Farming in Hawaii Expected to Expand by 900%
Deserted Coal Mines Provide Water For Fish Farms in West Virginia
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