The population of wild North Atlantic salmon today is just 25 percent of its level in 1970. Such a rapid decline is an indication that the species is in danger of facing extinction.
Deteriorating ocean conditions in the ocean due to climate change and ocean acidification affect the salmon feeding grounds and make the survival of wild salmon populations increasingly precarious.
Open pen ocean farming in fjords further limits their chances of surviving in the wild. A continuous torrent of parasites, diseases, and escaped salmon that cause genetic mixing all flow from the pens directly into the fjords.
1,133 times the size of the wild Icelandic salmon population
Open pen ocean farming in Icelandic waters has grown eighteen fold since the turn of the century. In 2021, 45,000 tons of farmed salmon were produced in Iceland, and it is estimated that the annual production could reach 106,500 tons. This is based on the assumptions of the risk assessment on genetic mixing, published by the Icelandic Marine and Freshwater Research Institute. To reach this production level requires that about 68 million salmon be farmed in ocean pens in Icelandic waters. That is 1,133 times the size of the Icelandic wild salmon population.
The population of Icelandic wild salmon is less than 60 thousand fish. According to figures from the Norwegian Marine Research Institute, it’s estimated that on average one farmed salmon escapes from every ton produced in sea pens. This means that every year the number of escaped salmon would be almost double the total number of Icelandic wild salmon. This can only end in disaster. Genetic mixing with farmed salmon interferes drastically with tens of thousands of years of evolutionary history of the wild populations and drastically reduces their ability to survive in the wild.
Salmon farming in open sea pens damages the environment and the ecosystem
Salmon- and fish lice are parasites that feed on the mucus, blood, and skin of salmon. Lice infestations are a constant problem in open sea pens, from where these aggressive parasites are transmitted to wild salmon and sea trout in quantities far above what would occur under natural conditions. Outbreaks of salmon lice have fatal consequences for salmon juveniles and frequently even healthy adult animals.
The ‘pharmaceuticals’ and pesticides used to control sea lice in the pens are insecticides that are either poured directly into the water or mixed into the feed that is distributed to the pens. These substances are lethal to other marine life, especially shellfish, including barnacles, lobsters, crabs, and shrimp.
Untreated waste from the pens, including fecal matter and the residue of feed, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals, flows unhindered into the ocean and accumulates on the seabed.
Every ton of farmed salmon produces as much sewage as 16 people. If the production is allowed to reach the maximum of 106,500 tons, the annual sewage pollution from the industry will be equivalent to that produced by 1,7 million people. That is more than quadruple the population of Iceland.
An enormous quantity of plastic pollution is emitted by sea pens: The nets, floats, and feed tubes are all made of plastic. Every site has many kilometers of plastic pipes used to deliver feed to the pens. Hard feed pellets are delivered under high pressure through the pipes. The process works like sandblasting and breaks down the pipes, which results in large amounts of microplastics being pumped with the feed to the fish, and into the ocean.
The nets in the sea pens are coated with copper oxide, a toxic heavy metal that is dangerous to the ecosystem. The copper seeps into the ocean in its ionic form, as Cu2+, which is the most toxic form of the metal, harming sensitive plants and animals living on the seafloor.
Salmon farming in open net pens leaves an enormous ecological footprint.
Wild salmon is a predator near the top of the marine food chain and feeds on smaller fish and crustaceans. This diet gives the flesh of the salmon its distinctive pink color. The feed given to farmed salmon is made from fish- and soybean meal, mixed with the pigment Astaxanthin. Without this added pigment, the flesh of farmed salmon has an unappetizing grayish color.
It takes significantly more than 1kg of wild fish to produce 1kg of farmed Icelandic salmon.
90 percent of the wild fish used for salmon feed are anchovies, mackerel, and sardines, fish that can be used for human consumption.
Around the world much of this is imported and sourced globally from low-income countries, where unsustainable industrial fishing by fishmeal producers threatens food security and traditional coastal fisheries, in addition to the huge carbon footprint of this industry.
A single meal of farmed salmon requires proteins and nutrients which would be enough for three to four meals.
Open net pen salmon farming is industrial farming that sacrifices the welfare of the farm animals for short-term profit.
Conditions in the pens are so bad that 20 percent of the fish dies before it can be harvested. Such livestock losses would never be tolerated in any other type of farming.
Last year (2022) three million farmed salmon perished in pens in Icelandic waters. In Norway 58 millions salmon died.
The industry has increasingly relied on so-called “cleaner fish” such as wrasse and lumpfish to contain lice infestations. The „cleaner fish“ is both farmed and wild-caught wrasse. Every single one dies or is slaughtered at the end of each production cycle.
Every day 150.000 „cleaner fish“ die in Norwegian open net pens.
The treatment of salmon louse infestations in sea pens, for example, the use of pesticides and freshwater washing is polluting, cruel, and in many cases ineffective.
Open net pens are breeding grounds for parasitic fish- and salmon lice, a parasite that feeds on the skin of the fish. Badly affected fish become covered with open lesions. Photographs taken in the pens show horrifying scenes of live fish with gashes and open wounds that expose the flesh and even the skull, where the lice have eaten through the skin and then the flesh on the head of the fish.
Reasons to avoid salmon
from open net-pens
of salmon in open sea pens damages the environment and the ecosystem and treats the farmed salmon terribly.
Open pen farming
is an unacceptable method of food production
Open net pen salmon farming
compromises the survival chances of wild salmon populations.
Open net pens
are the source of a continuous torrent of parasites, pollution, disease, and escaped salmon that cause genetic pollution.
Genetic mixing obliterates
10.000 of years of evolutionary adaptation of wild salmon populations to their environment and drastically reduces their ability to survive in the wild
call for at least 68 million salmon in sea pens in Icelandic fjords. This is 1,133 times the size of the wild Icelandic salmon population.
from each ton of salmon in open net pens is equal to that produced by sixteen people.
A single meal
of farmed salmon requires proteins and nutrients which would be enough for three to four meals.
Open net pens
are breeding grounds for parasitic fish- and salmon louse.
Conditions in the pens
are so bad that 20 percent of the fish die before they can be harvested.
Open net pens
allow pollution and residues of feed, pharmaceuticals, and pesticides to pour unhindered into the ocean, alongside escaped fish.
rom the pens, including fecal matter and the residue of feed, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals, flows unhindered into the ocean and accumulates on the seabed
The pesticides used
in the pens are lethal to other marine life.
Enormous quantities of plastic pollution
is emitted by sea pens: The nets, floats, and feed tubes are all made of plastic.
Large quantities of microplastics
are delivered with the feed to salmon in open pens, and then into the ocean.
Skilmálar og persónuvernd
Umhverfissjóðurinn The Icelandic Wildlife er ekki rekinn í ágóðaskyni ( non – profit ).
Hann er sjálfseignarstofnun og starfar samkvæmt lögum nr. 19/1988 um sjóði og stofnanir.