By: Jenni Mun
Fish products have attracted considerable attention as a source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and fats. Seafood have ranked third among the food categories with fastest overall growth worldwide, and even in our landlocked state, we see so many seafood restaurants. As a seafood lover, I got curious about the way these fish products end up in our supermarkets, and, ultimately, on my plate! So, I did some research on how and why fish are so accessible when they are one of the most highly perishable foods.
First, I wanted to know more about how so many fish can be caught. Due to increased demand for fish, fish farming has been the main source of most fish products we find in supermarkets. However, fish farming creates many environmental problems. Before I dig into the negative impact that fish farming has on the environment, I wanted to learn how the fish farming procedure works. Sadly, the information that I found was similar to what we know about how factory-farmed meat is processed. The most common pre-slaughter procedure for fish production is starvation and crowding. Starving the fish for some days prior to slaughter is a common practice to delay the spoilage by reducing the amount of feces in the intestine. Crowding is another procedure taken by fish farmers immediately before killing, to collect a high density of fish easily. However, research has proven that crowding causes a complex stress response. So, the common procedure that we use to process fish is not only causing stress to the fish, but it leads to degradation in the quality of the fish. It can also hurt their metabolic response, which leads to an increase in disease. Both of these techniques are the result of high demand for fish.
Fish farming also creates problems in our environment related to pollution, as well as affects other marine animals. Fish farming can cause pollution in our seas through pesticides, antibiotics, fish bio-waste, and other chemicals that enter our waterways. Although other pollutants are obvious in how they can negatively impact us as well as local species, some may wonder why fish waste can hurt our environment and animals who live in it. Although fish waste is a natural pollutant, it includes particles of flesh, skin, bones, entrails, or shells that can impact the local environment by polluting the water and smothering animals and plants on the seafloor as it accumulates. Fish bio-waste can also affect the oxygen levels in the seawaters at the ocean bottom, and this leads to depriving other marine animals of oxygen. Fish waste can also decrease ocean temperature, pH levels, and introduce disease or non-native and invasive species to the ecosystem. As you can see, fish waste negatively affects the sea water as well as marine animals that inhabit, and will eventually hurt our whole ecological system.
Another significant problem we face from fish farming is that escaped farmed fish can pass on-farm diseases to wild fish populations. Diseases and parasites are rampant in farmed-fish populations.
Despite all of these problems, fish farming is expected to increase as demand increases. So, as consumers, we should ask ourselves the simple question of where our fish comes from. If it is farmed, chances are we should avoid it. We can ask our local supermarkets about the sustainability of their fish products. Although there are many health benefits in eating some wild-caught fish, we need to consider environmental impacts, too.
Do you know where your fish comes from?