Farmed salmon accounts for billions in social and lost costs every year. Between 2013 and 2019, the negative impact was estimated at around 47 billion dollars. Remarkable, as it is the world's fastest-growing food industry.
Fivefold by 2050
Although farmed salmon often gets promoted as a healthy and sustainable alternative, current production has significant negative impacts. A small number of multinational producers operating in only four farming regions dominate the farming of salmon. These regions are Chile, Norway, Canada and Scotland. As a result, there is also little transparency and accountability, especially compared to agricultural farming.
On top of that, this industry is the fastest-growing food production segment worldwide, and demand is expected to continue to grow across the globe. Scotland, for example, wants to double its capacity by 2030. And, by 2050, Norway even wants to increase the capacity fivefold.
4 billion environmental cost
But the growth comes at a high price: the losses amount to billions each year. This became apparent in a new report commissioned by the Changing Markets Foundation, the organisation that also addressed the high consumption of fossil fuels in the textile industry. In said rapport, the foundation pleaded for linking European coronavirus financial support for fashion companies to sustainability requirements.
According to calculations, the environmental cost alone would amount to 4 billion dollars since 2013. It includes pollution, climate change but - ironically - also overfishing. To feed the salmon and give it its signature Omega 3, fishmeal and oils are made from sardines and other fish species. About a fifth of the annual catch of wild fish goes to fish farms. The report recommends using algae as an alternative.
A large part (60 per cent) of the incurring costs are borne by the producers, of which ten, spread across four countries, are responsible for 50 per cent of the worldwide production. The other part, 40 per cent, is at the expense of our society and the environment. For the farmers, sea lice, that eat the salmon's skin, and the high fish mortality rate are a major and increasing concern. According to the report, this has a lot to do with overpopulation in the breeding tanks.
Growing consumer demand for sustainable products and increasing losses create long-term economic risks for the industry. In order to keep those threats under control, the report suggests producers must invest in better farming methods and find solutions to environmentally damaging practices, such as the intensive use of wild fish.