Conditions inherent in fish farming totally at odds with those fish experience in the wild. Under natural conditions, wild salmon migrate up to hundreds of kilometres and end their lives leaping upstream to spawn in the rivers where they were born. This is in drastic contrast to a life in which a salmon has the equivalent of a bathtub or two of water to call its own.
Most farmed species in Canada is salmon. Other species such as trout and steelhead, as well as shellfish, are also farmed. In Canada, British Columbia and New Brunswick have the most fish farms. By the end of 2003, there were 125 salmon farms in British Columbia, and approximately 86,000 tonnes of fish were produced. At the end of 2003, there were 95 salmon farms in New Brunswick, producing 39,000 tonnes of fish.
Each fish farm is a system of cages. Each cage can contain as many as 20,000 fish, and in BC, there is no legislation governing maximum stocking density. Overcrowding results in injuries and diseases that must be controlled with chemicals and antibiotics. After a year, the salmon are slaughtered, but not before they are starved for up to two weeks.
Many people do not think fish feel pain or stress. But fish are vertebrates with a brain and central nervous system. Scientific research has proven that they suffer just like other animals.
The unnatural crowding of intensive confinement causes fish to suffer from several problems, including bullying from bigger fish, abrasions on fins, gills, skin and tails from rubbing against each other and the nets, abnormal behaviour (similar to zoo animals that pace or circle), infestations of sea lice, diseases, oxygen starvation due to hot weather and/or waste build-up, and deformities. Caged fish must sometimes be handled to redistribute for size grading, medical treatments and salmon lice removal. This handling causes enormous stress and can result in death.
For more details on farmed fish, download our fact sheet (pdf file).
Pertinent op-ed article about cruelty in the commercial fishing industry:
by Peter Singer, published September 14, 2010 in The Globe and Mail