Farmed Scottish salmon – can we have our fish and eat it?
Delicious protein responsibly farmed in pristine Scottish waters. Right?
It can be difficult to know what to eat – with increasing alarm over the impact the intensive livestock industry has on our planet and a never-ending parade of opinion pieces telling us what should be on our plates.
But salmon is one of the good things right? It is marketed as healthy (loaded with Omega-3) and good for the environment (takes pressure off wild fish stocks). Scottish salmon is marketed as particularly virtuous – a local product sourced from pristine waters. Unfortunately, once you dive a little deeper into the Scottish farmed salmon industry its environmental credentials become a lot more murky.
I stopped eating meat about four years ago for environmental reasons – the level of feed required to satisfy the livestock industry is inefficient and wasteful. Feeding good food that could feed people to animals does not make sense, especially in the context of climate crisis. Unfortunately, the farmed salmon industry faces a similar issue.
The Scottish salmon farming industry uses hundreds of thousands of tonnes of wild-caught fish from across the globe every year to feed the salmon that ends up on our plates. In the process it dirties Scottish waters and damages local wildlife.
Farming fish requires feed: for the globally booming industry of farmed Atlantic salmon, this means feed containing wild-caught oceanic fish sourced from European, South American and West Africa waters, alongside other ingredients such as soya and vegetable oils. The Scottish industry has a large appetite for expansion – aiming to double in size by 2030. This expansion would require a massive 310,000 tonnes of extra wild fish a year. For context, the current quantity of wild fish fed to farmed Scottish salmon, 460,000 tonnes, is roughly equivalent to the amount purchased by the entire UK population, and to fulfil growth ambitions this amount would need to increase by around two thirds. Where and how this wild fish will be sustainably sourced is an unanswered question. That’s billions of fish caught from delicate wild ocean ecosystems in the world, where they play a crucial role in the wild food chain. Fish that, in some cases, could be eaten by people.
There are hundreds of salmon farms in Scotland, but the industry is essentially controlled by six key players – these companies hold the power. If the industry wants to expand, it needs to come clean. Where will extra wild fish be sourced to support its expansion? How will it ensure that ocean ecosystems aren’t threatened, both overseas and in Scotland? And how can it assure customers that their fish dinner isn’t undermining our future food security?
We are calling on the Scottish farmed salmon industry to provide information on the feed used in Scottish salmon production.