If you are at all familiar with Monty Python, you may have seen the movie The Meaning Of Life. Granted the humour is not always palatable at the dinner table but it is still hilariously ridiculous. So along those same fishing lines, let’s look at what is happening in our oceans because although you might like the taste of Skinny Mermaid Salmon and even buy into the claim that it is a sustainable fish when grown in closed containment facilities or inland, it still contributes to the “one wafer-thin sardine” problem.
Salmon are carnivores but they don’t eat chicken. Even if the wild ones did manage to hook the odd chicken who just happened to cross the Fraser River (to get to the other side of course) during spawning season so that they could coral it up as snack for their young, getting past the feathers might pose a challenge. Sardines and other such ocean bling are their preferred dinner guests.
In fact, according to New Zealand’s online fishing magazine, over 99% of their local salmon’s diet consists of only 3 species: sprats (the shiny bling fish like sardines), red krill, and juvenile hoki.
Once salmon honeymooners “agree” to move to the farm and raise their new bloodline they don’t suddenly become vegetarians. They continue their carnivorous habits except that someone else does the fishing for them. In exchange for ending up on our dinner plate they get to munch on jack mackerel, sardines, anchovies, or other wild species.
The factory trawlers become the new predators and they are highly efficient. They know how to wipe out entire schools of fish in a single catch.
So much for survival of the fittest!
“Well, that’s not so bad,” you might be thinking if you were a lazy salmon. “I get to hang out with my buds all day, I don’t have to out-swim any predators blowing bubbles down my scales, and I get a fresh morning catch served up every day. Woo hoo!”
Ah! But think again. You forgot to read the fine print. Oh that’s right. Fish can’t read.
The farming corporations may have contracted with the salmon community to supply them with wild fish but they never explicitly stated that it would be fresh. Those wriggly protein machines get convenient little nutrition-stripped pellets “made from” wild fish and “fortified” with all sorts of funky ingredients like emamectin benzoate (EB), antibiotics, and food coloring. Yum!
“Whoa! Back up a sec. Food coloring in their food? Surely the salmon really don’t care how pretty their food looks,” you say.
Right you are! Hungry salmon will eat whatever they are fed but the food coloring is not for them. Any guesses?
Wild salmon is pink because of what they eat in the wild (likely it’s the red krill that makes them blush), but farmed salmon is naturally muddy grey in color. How much would you pay for that little sushi bit?
At this point I hope you are thinking: “EEK!”
Just in case you aren’t, there’s more…farmed salmon also has 5 times the PCBs as wild salmon and traces of all sorts of chemicals used to keep their pens clean and pesticides to keep the bugs away.
Now for the piece de resistance…the effect farmed salmon have on ocean depletion and pollution:
- fish lice— that’s what the EB added to their feed (knows as SLICE in the industry) attempts to eradicate, but super-lice still make it to the wild and kill wild salmon and sea-trout
- escape— after the raw deal the salmon gets, who wouldn’t want to head to freedom and spread all the disease and antibiotic-resistant bacteria to the wild and crash their smaller salmon cousins’ dinner parties
- poop— it settles on the bottom, feeding the shellfish with the toxic food coloring, antibiotics, EB,…
- murder— seals, sea lions, dolphins and porpoises show up for a feast and either get caught in the nets or shot
- depletion— it takes 3 to 5 pounds of fresh wild fish to make 1 pound of salmon. Can someone explain the logic in that one for me?
Now what are your thoughts?
Does EEK still sum it up or do you have another word unbecoming of a Woman Not Waiting you care to release to the universe?
That “one wafer-thin sardine” that we feed the salmon may not cause them to explode but it sure can cause the sardine stocks to implode or weaken the stock to the point of making it vulnerable to an unforeseen threat, sending yet another species spiraling into collapse and destabilizing all other up the food chain. And indeed the unthinkable has happened.
This year, 2013, the B.C. sardine industry has suddenly and inexplicably collapsed as did the one off the coast of South Africa. Not a single sardine was caught. The entire food chain up to humpback whales will be affected. It’s simply horrifying!
So would you like to join me in a moment of sheer hysteria? All together now…
…running down every single hallway on every single floor of my condo building screaming: “AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGG!”
Phew. That felt good, but I’m not waiting for the “Salmon Says” command before getting that pink poison off my menu.