Salmon Farming or Virus Farming?

March 29, 2008 By: Marshall Cutchin

The more scientists look at the environmental impact of salmon farming, the more grim their assessment. Now it seems that only massive amounts of antibiotics can control the spread of viruses that infest salmon farms, even in remote regions like the Chilean coast. Add this to the general inefficiency of salmon production — 7 to 11 pounds of fresh fish are required to produce 2 pounds of farmed salmon — and you get a recipe for environmental abuse.
As Pascale Bonnefoy writes in The New York Times, the companies running these huge salmon farms have an easy answer to the local disasters their aquaculture causes: they simply abandon the contaminated areas and move on. “Since discovering the virus in Chile last July, Marine Harvest has closed 14 of its 60 centers and announced it would lay off 1,200 workers, or one-quarter of its Chilean operation. Since the company announced last month that it would move south, to Aysén, the government has said the virus has spread there as well, in two outbreaks not involving Marine Harvest.” (Thanks to readers Bill Klyn and Kyle Moppert for this link.)